Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misrables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemptiona timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he...more
Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misrables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemptiona timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantines (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. less
“Though visually stunning with incredible performances, Les Miserables can be exasperating due it being overlong with too many songs. It is strictly for fans of the musical genre.”
While I have unfortunately not read Victor Hugo's literary masterpiece, I have watched one previous cinematic adaptation of the tale, which was the one released in 1998 starring Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean and Geoffery Rush as Javert. Having little knowledge of the tale before that viewing I was engrossed by the movie through much of its running length and remember particularly enjoying Neeson and Rush's performances. So when I learnt that director Tom Hooper whose previous efforts I quite enjoyed (The Dammed United, The King's Speech) was going to direct an adaptation of the musical with actors such as Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway starring, I was enticed despite its musical origins. My enthusiasm waned an hour into the movie and unfortunately never recovered.
The plot condenses a story spanning nearly 1,500 pages into a movie little over two hours and a half. To summarise the plot, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) once served a nineteen year prison term for stealing a loaf of bread in post-revolution France under the watchful eye of Inspector Javert who thinks a criminal will never change his ways. An incident with a merciful priest after his release turns Jean into an honest man who changes his identity and starts living in another town with much respect and money. However fate delivers Jarvet to his doorstep again and Jean is forced to abandon his identity again to protect not just himself but also the daughter, Cosette, of a poor woman, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) he believes he wronged, resulting in her social degradation and ultimate death. Many years later Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) has grown to be a beautiful young woman in Paris and is love with Marius (Eddie Redmayne) a revolutionary in a city on the verge of exploding due to the social and economic divide. Javert and Jean meet once again and Jean has quite a few choices of his own to make while a violent revolution brews in the backdrop that will pull all the people into its mix.
The tale more or less stands the same as most previous adaptations, the only real difference being the musical aspects of it which encourage a certain kind of narration style coupled with a constantly roving camera replete with close-ups of actor's faces. The sets are opulent in a stage sort of way and while real outdoor locations are used in places, the effect is generally of a static location.
Almost every line uttered is sung and for me it got more than a little tedious after sometime, because the actors turn even the most basic of lines as an excuse to exercise their vocal chords. The last musical I saw was 'Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street' which was a musical but kept it's musical sections exclusive from the normal spoken parts, making the viewing far more tolerable.
Some of the songs are no doubt catchy and I find myself even humming a few of them subconsciously but it's the bits between the songs during dialogue exchanges that get tedious. I also got the feeling that since the actors were made to sing their lines, for some of them it almost seems to get in the way of their acting abilities, the most affected being Russell Crowe, who turns a complex character into a bland, one-dimensional character.
For those who want the spectacle there is much to admire but this is not for everyone's taste and at nearly 160 minutes, it's quite a task to sit through it all, at least it was for me. I'd still recommend the 1998 version over this one.