Les Misérables (2013)

“I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living!”

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway

MV5BMTQ4NDI3NDg4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjY5OTI1OA@@._V1._SY317_Adapted from a West End show – not a usual occurrence  – Les Misérables is quite the epic.

The story follows the life of Jean Valjean, a criminal on the run after breaking parole. A cat and mouse chase ensues after Javert, a merciless policeman, vows to make him pay for his wrong doings. In addition to this, Valjean has also agreed to raise a factory worker’s child when she no longer can, making his duplicitous life even more challenging to hide. Set in 19th-century France we also see the film deal with the French Revolution, so there is quite a nice substance to the story.

Given the synopsis, Les Mis is really all about Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, who play Jean Valjean and Javert respectively. With their showdowns becoming a recurring theme throughout the film, they provide some of the best interactions. As these events are such pivotal moments too, these scenes had to be the most intriguing and captivating to watch, which they most definitely were. Right from the outset these two had established a tense relationship and that didn’t dwindle for one moment. The whole story has been spun from their differences and you feel for both characters and their own life goals. For both actors to pull this off and have the audience rooting for them is quite a feat to accomplish; while it would initially seem Valjean was the protagonist and Javert the antagonist, it becomes clear that it isn’t as black and white as that.

Two actors who I didn’t even know were in the film, but who made it that bit better, were Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. As Thénardier and Madame Thénardier, two swindling innkeepers, they bring a light, comedic relief to the film. The child actors were surprisingly good too, especially since they both played rather important parts. Isabelle Allen was in the role of a young Cosette, the factory worker’s daughter, and Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche, a boy who gets caught up fighting for the revolution. It was great to see such young people in the film, bringing a fresh lease of life with them.

After finding out Anna Hathaway had been nominated for so many awards (winning at the Golden Globes too), I expected a bigger part out of her. While she did play a great role and cut off all of her hair (maybe this is why she was nominated?), I don’t think it was Oscar worthy. Don’t get me wrong, as Fantine she did pull at my heartstrings and she portrayed this broken woman very well, but Oscar worthy, no.

One thing I didn’t know about Les Mis is that it is all song. I thought maybe it was a normal story interlaced with song, but it’s not, it is full on singing from start to end. At times it was tedious and drawn out, but it can be really powerful in some scenes. It’s also pretty amazing to think that the story has been completely written like this, and for it to work so well is amazing.

One of the things I felt could have been improved upon was the length. Towards the middle of the film, when Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmanye took centre stage, I felt like the film lost its umph a bit. Rather than moving at a swift pace the story seemed to slow down and I wasn’t all that interested in the love triangle these young’uns got caught up in. I think this part of the film could have been tighter to keep the audience more interested and shorten the massive 2 hours 37 minutes the film already sat at.

Les Misérables is a great West End to film adaptation. With actors such as Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway leading the cast, there was a flicker of hope even before the film was released. Thankfully the majority of them can sing – which is a huge bonus – though there were the odd few who didn’t carry the vocal strength you would expect in a musical. Nevertheless, Les Mis is a must see, both on film and the West End.

Star rating:  7.5/10

Directed by Tom Hooper.

Running time 157 minutes.

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