Les Miserables was an epic film! This incredible film is broadly scaled cinematically, visceral in passion and extremely personal for the audience. Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, John Adams) did a forceful job of making a true musical of passion and feelings come alive with real compassion on screen.
Having seen the stage version of the original production of Les Miserables many times, I went in a little skeptical that this kind of production couldn’t be translated from the stage to the big screen and not lose its essence. Boy was I proven wrong. Hooper did an outstanding job with everything he had to work with. Based on the original book by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, (from the original novel by Victor Hugo of Hunchback of Notre Dam’ fame) with the masterful score by Claude-Michel Schönberg, the movie is packed with extremely compassionate moments of the heart and soul of every one of these characters.
Hugh Jackman (X-Men, Reel Steel) gives the most colorful and compassionate performance of his career as Jean Valjean . Hugh is amazing to watch as he stars as the man who stole bread for his sister’s son in order save his life. He intensely shows his 19-year imprisonment angst and his redemption of character with a true spirit of love and healing. I was impressed with how much of a range Hugh can really play.
Anne Hathaway (Alice In Wonderland, Get Smart) gave a literally wrenching and tear-evoking performance of the most recorded song in this plays history, “I Dreamed A Dream.” She is passionate, visceral and real and you can only imagine what her character Fantine is going through. There wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre when she sung her last note.
Russell Crowe (Gladiator, Beautiful Mind) surprised me as the military leader Javert because I first, could not believe he could actually sing. Then second, he played the passion and confusion of the man chasing the bread stealer over decades as a real person with a misguided mission only to end up realizing he did the wrong thing all these years.
Other stunning performances vocally came from Samantha Barks (Grover High) as the confused and heartbroken Eponine as well as Eddie Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Marius who are both star-crossed – almost – lovers. Samantha swoons for Eddie and he swoons for Cosette played by Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia, Red Riding Hood). Samatha has an amazing and stunning voice as does Eddie’s commanding vocal passion while Amanda's sweet subtle and compassionate notes (as she always does) weaned the desire for love throughout.
Young Cosette was played by first-time performer Isabelle Allen with such realism that she personifies the poster that has always immortalized the play for decades!
Special note for Sacha Baron Cohen (Hugo, Borat) and Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter, Alice In Wonderland) playing husband and wife Thénardier and Madame Thénardier with the frolicking musical number “Master Of The House.” They couldn’t have been cast better and their chemistry together is pure comical magic.
Director of Photography Danny Cohen (The King’s Speech, Pirate Radio) did a masterful job at capturing broad panoramic images and a dark mood of the troubled times of the French Revolution. Coupled with amazing matte photography and more than period extended sets, the visuasl were stunning as well.
Overall the film is amazing and dynamic with all the real passion of the original stage production, but done in a believable and visually artistic way for the big screen. I thought it couldn’t be done – and it was done - and done well. It’s operatic and may be considered somewhat slow for those expecting car crashes, kung-fu fights or gun battles, but its filled with a real story and characters that should move you if you understand the personal angst of what makes these characters real to the story. Masterfully done on an epic scale, Les Miserables is an amazing cinematic production.