LOOK DOWN! LOOK DOWN! No. We aren’t playing Bingo. This is Les Miserable - the screen adaptation of the long running and incredibly successful stage show. Let me just start by saying that if you like the stage show, you will undoubtedly love this film. If you haven’t seen the stage show, you will probably like this film. If you DON’T like the stage show, then why are you reading this review? Personally, I haven’t seen the stage show, and so was unsure when entering the cinema. However, since watching it for the first time, I proceeded to watch it twice more that very same week. Les Miserable isn’t a good film. Les Miserable, is an absolute masterpiece.
Even before its release, Les Mis was looking at awards for both its performances and the film as a whole. Needless to say, it hasn’t been disappointed. So far, it has won Golden Globe awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Hugh Jackman) and Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway), and all have been thoroughly deserved. Also, with the Oscars just around the corner, more wins certainly possible.
Hugh Jackman takes the role of Jean Valjean, the slave, turned convict protagonist, whilst Anne Hathaway steps into the shoes of Fantine. An absolutely astounding cast, also including Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter deliver superb performances, but good as they are, none can compete with Hathaway’s breath-taking (if brief) appearance. Until now, Hathaway has always been an actress who I’d never look at twice. Her performances have been decent, but not noteworthy. All this has changed. Her rendition of the iconic “I dreamed a dream” was absolutely beautiful. Others sing that song with smiles, whereas Hathaway sang it with the emotion and depth it required. When she isn’t singing, she is portraying the despair and woe of her character faultlessly, and steals the show-a feat made even more impressive by her comparatively short screen-time.
Something that I found particularly impressive is the sheer emotion that the cast manages to convey. Not just in their performances, but also in the writing of the songs, the power of the events, and everything else that happens. As a film-goer, I am one who rarely gets emotional at the cinema. Sad films don’t seem to strike chords, and whilst I might feel pity, or emote with characters, rarely do I feel genuinely upset over events. Les Mis was completely different. Whilst I didn’t quite cry, it is by far the closest I have come. The characters actually have lives, and I found myself far more emotionally attached to them than I usually do.
Furthermore, the sheer range of emotions that the movie made me feel was astounding. It is able to make the audience laugh, cry, and be on the edge of their seats, all in the space of half an hour. The transfer between these drastically different emotional scenarios is helped by the film’s ability to tell multiple stories. The relationships between the characters have a story each, the constant threat of Valjean being caught by the guards, and of course – the main plotline of the French Revolution. Towards the end of the film, these various narrative sub-plots come together, to create a finale that is truly spectacular.
From the incredibly dramatic opening, to the climactic final number some 3 hours later, I was thoroughly entertained. The songs, the storyline, the way that the director can draw a tear from even the most cold-hearted of viewers – the entire spectacle is – for me – one of the best pieces of modern film making I have seen in a long time. In a world saturated with franchise cinema, Les Mis is a refreshing change to the norm, and is more than worth the £5 it costs to see.
10/10 - Incredible