Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks with Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen
Plot: Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released from prison, but struggles to adjust to civilian life, especially with stubborn police chief, Javert (Russell Crowe) on his back. Meanwhile, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) struggles to find money to support her daughter and the French Revolution reaches boiling point.
I have talked about this movie a lot. In fact, it is probably one of the more talked about films on my blog (if not, especially after today: there will be another Les Mis article at 8 tonight). Therefore, I had built up a high expectation of the film. As the lights in the cinema dimmed, I had a brief moment of panic that there was no way this film could match the anticipation.
The first few scene kind of confirmed my fears. The film sped along at such a pace that I was struggling to keep up. It was almost as though the film was impatient to get to the next song and I felt some of the scenes with Valjean as a free man for the first time in nineteen years was lost. This is a film that needs a slow, sombre pace and I felt the directional tone didn’t match the story. I was somewhat deflated.
Then it picked up. Maybe I just needed to adjust to the style of the film, but soon I was blown away. I was expecting an emotional rollercoaster, but I wasn’t expecting it to begin in the first twenty minutes. Tom Hooper lets his two stars, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, give out some amazing singing performances. Despite the amazing set-pieces (and they are amazing – more on that in tonight’s article), Hooper keeps the camera fixed on the singers’ faces, letting each emotion run its course, so the audience is given the full effect of the song. Sure, every now and again, they miss a note, but there is so much raw emotion flying around, it feels better with than without it.
The film gets dark, especially Fantine’s story-line. Hooper shows us the gritty side to Fantine’s life and, at times, it was almost too much. However, Anne Hathaway, who was an actress I wasn’t overly keen on before, has made me change my opinion of her completely. If I still had doubts on her acting abilities after the Dark Knight Rises, Les Miserables got rid of them in an instant. It is the role of a lifetime and she doesn’t even have a massive part.
Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. Helena Bonham Carter and a fantastic Sacha Baron Cohen bring the laughs, especially with a fantastic rendition of ‘Master of the House’. There is also the brotherly love between the resistance fighters that puts a grin on your face. Even though Hugh Jackman provides the main character, Hooper allows the other characters in the second act to grow, putting Valjean in the background of the story. It is a brave move, but one that works. Samantha Barks’ character, Eponine, is fantastic, instantly likeable from the moment she steps onstage. For her first film role, she deserves a lot of credit.
It gets dark nearer the end, although after Fantine, the film never quite gets to the same depths as before. Not that it isn’t sad though; there were several teary faces throughout the cinema. The film isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty and there were several scenes that had me surprised it was only rated 12A. It was always tasteful though, handled with the right amount of care.
As for the other actors. Russell Crowe was his usual good self: the role of Javert doesn’t require too much acting on his part. Amanda Seyfried barely features; her character is more symbolic than a present feature in the film. Everyone else performed to the best of their abilities, maybe with the small exception of Helena Bonham Carter, who basically just played a diluted version of every other role she has done. However, on the whole, the cast were perfect, bringing the great vocals that were needed to pull this off.
Sure, the story did raise an eyebrow at time to time, but I cannot fault Tom Hooper for that. He was working with the source material and kept it true to the stage show. Overall, the small doubts I had at the start of the film were flattened out to the point where I almost forgot I had them.
One more thing: when the film ended, there was a round of applause. Most unusual for the cinema. Unusual, yet so well deserved. I was happy to clap along.
Final verdict: The cast came together with fantastic vocals, aided by a director, who was able to highlight the key points of the film. Dark, ‘miserable’, yet at the same time flawless.
Next week’s review: Django Unchained