LES MISERABLES (2013)

9 out of 10

Release Date: 11th January 2013

Director: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks, Aaron Tviet, Daniel Huttlestone, Colm Wilkinson, Isabelle Allen with Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter

Writer: Victor Hugo / William Nicholson

Trailer: LES MISERABLES (2012)

As epic as they come, here arrives Tom Hooper‘s film adaptation of the musical Les Miserables.  He’s assembled a wonderful international cast  for this go around and thankfully it’s the version to better all the previous (non-musical) adaptations — most recent of which was the turgid 1998 Liam Neeson vs. Geoffrey Rush version.  Again Javert is played by an Anti-Poedean; Russell Crowe (LA CONFIDENTIAL), as is Jean Valjean this time around by Hugh Jackman (X-MEN).

The plot is well-known so I’ll give the 17 year span the briefest of spins.  A slave for 20 years, Valjean is freed but finds himself on permanent parole.  After a miracle in forgiveness shows him the way, he reinvents himself in the name of good and we later catch up with him when he is the mayor of a provincial town and the owner of a factory.  A factory girl (ANNE HATHAWAY – THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) is thrown out of her job onto the streets despite having to keep her daughter Cosette’s welfare looked after via a pair of crooked innkeepers played with Dickensian eccentricity by Sacha Baron Cohen (ALI G INDA HOUSE) and Helena Bonham-Carter (THE KING’S SPEECH).  Javert also shows up on the scene and recognises Valjean pursuing him relentlessly over the years and eventually to Paris.  Through plot points I don’t want to spoil for the uninitiated, Cosette becomes Valjean’s ward and she is now a teenager played by Amanda Seyfried (RED RIDING HOOD).  She catches the eye of French revolutionary, Marius (EDDIE REDMAYNE – BLACK DEATH) and they fall in love instantly against the backdrop of the French Revolution and the ensuing chaos.  Will Javert ever catch Valjean?  Will Vajean ever step aside and allow Cosette to leave his care? Will the barricades hold against the government soldiers? Will Marius ever find out that his best friend Eponine (SAMANTHA BARKS – WALKING ON SUNSHINE) loves him with all her heart?  You can probably guess the outcome to all of these if you’ve seen the fabulous trailer.  But that’s all I’m prepared to go into for now.

I have to confess that I was new to the story before I saw the previously mentioned 1998 non-musical version, so was greatly surprised at how much the singing performances add to the story.  Hugh Jackman probably has the hardest job because a large proportion of his role is sung lines but not songs.  So he’s left exposed to wavering notes and some uncertainty.  He’s one of my favourite leading actors these days after movies like The Prestige, The Fountain, Real Steel and even his Wolverine portrayal in The X-Men canon, but here he’s admirable but struggling.  The odd popping eye and twitching eyebrow betray the lengths he’s going to nail the part too.  When leading or contributing to a song such as “Suddenly” or “One More Day” he works wonders and demonstrates that he definitely isn’t the weak link.  He’s just got the most to carry.  Elsewhere Russell Crowe is surprisingly effective and upsetting as Javert.  His singing sits within the lower octaves and he plays to obvious strengths.  It’s the most perfectly cast he’s been in a very long time.  I enjoyed his part in the recent The Man With Iron Fists but beyond that I’ve groaned at his chosen material like The Next Three Days or Robin Hood (2010), which have been dull on all fronts.  Inspite of the two leads’ efforts and successes the show is stolen from under their noses by Anne Hathaway and her version of “Dream a Dream”.  A heartbreaking rendition that sweeps all before her away and everything else in the film fails to match it for quite a while.  That it does at all is a miracle but the film does, from the young Cosette singing in the icy woods and her first encounter with Valjean, to “One More Day” and then onto the rabble rousing flag waving finale!

The action sequences at the end are set-bound but they hold the interest as the film draws to it’s almighty yet sad conclusion.  The battles between Javert and the revolutionaries are stirring and well-accomplished and the music just bolsters the emotions.  I’ve never been one for popular West-End shows (but I do like theatre) but this is one I’d like to see on stage when memories of this film aren’t quite so clear.  In my opinion, this is where the bar is set for future large scale musical film adaptations.  The supporting cast were amazing too, even comedy foils Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are a great fit, although the latter has to make some effort to get out of her comfortable line in shabbily dressed eccentrics (see Sweeney Todd, Great Expectations (2012), Harry Potter).  Tom Hooper, the director proves that The King’s Speech was no fluke and that he can muster career bests from international actors already at the pinnacle of their trade.  I look forward to seeing what he’s got lined up next and I hope the British film industry can afford to finance his next epic!

9 out of 10 –  A spellbinding and awesome accomplishment (only addicts and purists would know it well enough to quibble or squabble about details!) It’s an all round win for the international cast and British film industry.  Go and see it now on the biggest screen you can to see whether it’s capable of out-shining the live show!  Pretty much perfect. But what is it about 2013 so far, UK movies are either involve opera (QUARTET) or high rise housing blocks (I ANNA)?

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Hugh Jackman: The Greatest Showman On Earth, Eddie The Eagle, X-Men – Wolverine 3, Broadway, X-Men 5, Pan, Chappie, X-Men 4, The Prisoners, X-Men – The Wolverine 2, Movie 43, Rise Of The Guardians (voice), Real Steel, X-Men-Wolverine, Australia, Happy Feet (voice), Flushed Away (voice), The Prestige, The Fountain,  Scoop, X-Men 3, Van Helsing, X-Men 2, Kate & Leopold, Swordfish, X-Men, Paperback Hero
  • Russell Crowe: The Nice Guys, Fathers and Daughters, The Water Diviner, Noah, A Winter’s Tale, Man Of Steel, Broken City, The Man With Iron Fists, The Next Three Days, Robin Hood (2010), State Of Play, Tenderness, Body Of Lies, American Gangster, 3:10 To Yuma, A Good Year, Cinderella Man, Master & Commander- The Far Side Of The World, A Beautiful Mind, Proof Of Life, Gladiator, The Insider, Mystery Alaska, Breaking Up, LA Confidential, Rough Magic, Virtuosity, The Quick & The Dead, The Sum Of Us, The Silver Brumby, Love In Limbo, Hammers Over The Anvil, Romper Stomper, Spotswood, Proof (1991), The Crossing, Blood Oath
  • Anne Hathaway: Alice In Wonderland 2, Interstellar, Don Jon, The Dark Knight Rises, One Day, Love and Other Drugs, Alice In Wonderland (201o), Valentine’s Day, Bride Wars, Rachel Getting Married, Get Smart, Becoming Jane, The Devil Wears Prada, Brokeback Mountain, Havoc, The Princess Diaries 1 & 2, Ella Enchanted, Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
  • Eddie Redmayne: Jupiter Ascending, The Theory of Everything, My Week With Marilyn, Black Death, Glorious 39, Les Miserables (2013), The Good Shepherd, The Other Boleyn Girl, Like Minds, Elizabeth – The Golden Age
  • Amanda Seyfried: Ted 2, While We’re Young, A Million Ways To Die In The West, The Big Wedding, Lovelace, Gone, In Time, Red Riding Hood (2010), Letters To Juliet, Dear John, Chloe, Jennifer’s Body, Mamma Mia!, Alpha Dog, Mean Girls, As The World Turns (TV)
  • Samantha Barks: Dracula Untold, The Christmas Candle
  • Aaron Tviet: Gossip Girl (TV)
  • Sacha Baron Cohen: Grimsby, Anchorman 2, The Dictator, Madagascar- parts 1 to 3 (voice),  Hugo, Bruno, Borat, Talladega Nights, Ali G Inda House, The Jolly Boys Last Stand,The Ali G Show (TV), The 11 O’ Clock Show (TV)
  • Helena Bonham Carter: Alice In Wonderland 2, Suffragette, Cinderella (2015), The Young and Prodigious TS Spivet, The Lone Ranger (2013), Great Expectations (2012), Dark Shadows, Harry Potter> parts 3-8, The King’s Speech, Alice In Wonderland (2010), Terminator 4, Sweeney Todd (2007), Sixty Six, The Corpse Bride (voice), Wallace & Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit (voice), Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (2005), Big Fish, The Heart Of Me, Novocaine, The Planet Of The Apes (2001), Fight Club, The Theory Of Flight, Keep The Aspidistra Flying, Wings Of The Dove, Twelfth Night (1997), Mighty Aphrodite, Margaret’s Museum, Frankenstein (1994), Howard’s End, Where Angels Fear To Tread, Hamlet (1990), Lady Jane, A Room With a View
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