16th January, 2013
Les Miserables (M)
In A Word: Monumental
It's already snared a number of prizes including best actor for Hugh Jackman and best supporting actress for Anne Hathaway at the Golden Globes but it's certainly worth highlighting what is a powerful film version of the much acclaimed musical (and, further back, Victor Hugo's original novel).
"Drawing on a stellar cast, director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) has done a stunning job in putting on film a musical version of Hugo's moving story."
Drawing on a stellar cast - which also includes Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, and Eddie Redmayne - director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) has done a stunning job in putting on film a musical version of Hugo's moving story.
While there are considerable differences to the original book - a heart-moving story about the possibility of redemption, love and the hardships faced by those in extreme poverty set amid the turmoil of the years following the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in mid-19th century France (the book is a veritable tome but well worth taking the time to read) - the storyline, although substantially pared back and changed in some small ways, is essentially the same. And while the book remains deeply challenging for any Christian concerned with the state of the world (not just in mid-18th century France but today), the major themes are fairly faithfully played out in this big screen version.
It follows the story of a convict Jean Valjean (played by Jackman), who after being released from prison has an encounter with a bishop (played by Colm Wilkinson) which changes his life. Determined to live a new life and put his past behind him, he rises to become mayor of a small French town and it is in this role that he encounters a destitute former employee, Fantine (played by Hathaway), and her daughter Cosette (Seyfried) whom he is determined to help. Matters are complicated, however, as Valjean is relentlessly pursued by a zealous police officer named Javert (Crowe) for breaking the conditions of his release and the story eventually takes them all to Paris. There Cosette falls in love with a revolutionary named Marius (Redmayne) - a fact which only complicates matters as the story winds to its ultimate conclusion and brings Valjean and Javert together for the final time.
The musical voices featured aren't always the strongest but there's enough talent there to carry it off for the purposes of the film. After all, this isn't a musical film in the way The Sound of Music is - it's much more like a filmed stage-show. And in this case, that's a major strength.
The cinematography is superb with some breath-taking scenes including the opening shots in which the convict Jean Valjean is released. And, alongside the stars, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter make standout comic appearances as the grasping innkeeper Thenardier and his wife while Daniel Huttlestone gives a moving performance as the irrepressible Gavroche.
This is a passionate production made for the big screen and while its format won't appeal to everyone (I did have one friend describe it as "slow strangulation by song"), it is generally a crowd-pleaser (or in this case a crowd-mover for it's hard indeed not to be moved by the story here portrayed). A production which will stand the test of time.
THE SIGHT ON THE SCREEN ARCHIVES FOR
OF FILMS AND DVDS