Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks and Anne Hathaway
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
If you don’t like musicals, avoid Les Miserables like the plague. This is nearly three hours of non-stop singing, literally every single word is sung. This was an approach I was aware of and looking forward to prior to seeing the film and if you go in with such an attitude, it is very easy to adapt to this film’s method of telling its story. This is a very bombastic, heightened and melodramatic film and I appreciated the honesty of its earnestness. This is a film that doesn’t make any apologies for what it is and for better or worse absolutely goes for it. While I admired this bravery it sporadically interrupted me from feeling the emotions that the film aims to instigate. Since the film is constantly turned up to eleven, it exhausted me out of feeling any genuine emotion as it frequently felt as if the film was trying too hard.
This is also a film that is incredibly long and as it reached its final movements I was more than ready for it to end. The first movement of this film felt incredibly rushed, with me wanting and expecting certain events to take longer and be more developed. There is of course an inherent contradiction that I found the film both rushed and overlong, yet it is a contradiction which points to a screenplay that perhaps could have been as brave as its director was in translating this story to the big screen.
When Tom Hooper won the best director Oscar for The King’s Speech, many threw a tidal wave of criticism at him due to the decision of others to give him the award over David Fincher for The Social Network. Hooper’s work was accused of being lifeless and televisual. However Hooper has absolutely answered such critics with this film. Hooper’s sweeping camera movements and extreme close-ups give this film its epic and emotional energy. Additionally, the risky decision to have all the actors sing live on set not only highlights an achievement in sound mixing but was also an inspired decision which rightly placed performance and emotion over musical perfection. Hooper’s visuals and approach to this material is one part of a trifecta, which ensures that this film is worthy despite its length and at times alienating earnestness.
The acting in this film is fantastic from all members of the cast…yes even and especially, Russell Crowe. Hugh Jackman is an actor who I have always liked, yet I have never seen him give a truly ‘great’ performance, this is his ‘great performance’ and he absolutely knocks it out of the park in this film. Jackman displays a level of emotion and intensity that he has simply been unable to express as Wolverine. In a soliloquy early on in the film, Jackman absolutely blew me away and he was perfect as Jean Valjean, we are constantly rooting for and believing in him. Additionally, Anne Hathaway is worthy of all the supporting actress awards she has been winning for playing Fantine. Hathaway is my favourite actress and to see her finally get the recognition she deserves for this film is a joy to see. Just as in The Dark Knight Rises, when she is on screen the film gains a new level of emotion and energy. Her version of I Dreamed a Dream (All done in one shot) is one of the true showstoppers of the film and is a scene that has and will bring many people to tears, forming the basis of her inevitable Oscar win.
Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried don’t have quite the same level of material to work with as their counterparts, yet both are able to just about sell that incredibly rushed relationship (I’ll restrain myself from being the cynic who dissects aspects of this plot) However in that storyline it is Samantha Barks as Eponine who shines brightest, perhaps due to her being one of the most sympathetic characters in the film, with her version of On My Own kicking off the film’s finest fifteen or so minutes. Russell Crowe is a perfect villain as Javert and his singing is nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe. He is menacing and domineering throughout. Finally Sacha Baron Cohen and Helenha Bonham Carter both provide the comedy competently, being a nice contrast to the seriousness of their colleagues.
Finally, it goes without saying that the music in this film is fantastic. My personal favourite songs would have to be One Day More, Do You Hear The People Sing and Master of the House. All the songs however are great in their own right and I will be listening to this film’s versions of these classic songs for a long time. Therefore despite it being simultaneously rushed and overlong and at times a bit too bombastic for its own good, due to the bravery of the visuals, the intensity of the performances and the longevity of the songs, Les Miserables is a very good and at times great cinematic experience.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
Disagree with this review? Give us your thoughts in the comments below