Thursday, May 16, 2013

Film Review: Les Misérables (2012)

Les Misérables (Review)
United Kingdom/2012
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Les Misérables is the story of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict turned mayor. A story that highlights the life-changing events of Jean's hard life, and how he connects to others - whether it be Cossete, the young girl he takes in, or Javert, a police inspector who has been chasing Jean for 17 years.

This film is a musical based on a musical, which was based on a novel. As previously mentioned, the story mainly follows Jean as begins to understand life and death, love and hatred, redemption and loss. This massive tale spans 17 years. Jean starts as a convict finishing his term for stealing bread - for trying to survive. He is saved by a priest and promises to change. Fast forward a few years, Jean is now the mayor of a city and we are introduced to Fantine. Fantine is another struggling soul trying to survive and save her daughter after being fired from her job for the same reason. After a torturous life in the underground, Jean agrees to foster Fantine's daughter, Cossette. Fast forward again, Jean and Cossette have moved on and a revolution is on the horizon. Cossette falls in love with a young rebel, and Jean realizes what he must do. Throughout the 17 years, Jean and Javert, two opposite characters, face each other in a game of cat-and-mouse.

I enjoyed the story in Les Misérables. It's a bittersweet tale of love, death, faith, identity, and people. It's often a bleak story as death lurks around every corner, but the deaths are often noble and beautiful; they are deaths that mean something, whether it's death for your daughter or for your beliefs. The main focus is on Jean, but it still manages to balance the other characters enough to develop their identities, their feelings, and such. The story consists of mostly singing, in fact, it likely takes up 99% of the film's dialogue. I enjoyed the singing from most of the cast; I felt it added a lot of emotion to the film, so I didn't mind the bulk of the film being in song. It is a little too long, but if you're enjoying the music, it'll be over before you know it. My only minor complaint is the inconsistent storytelling, it often jumps from scene to scene with very little connection.

The acting is fantastic from the cast. Every cast member hit their emotions perfectly, you can feel the pain through the singing and the visuals, the tone of the voices and the facial expressions. Hugh Jackman plays Jean Valjean in a very powerful and demanding role; he can sing very softly, but also with the utmost conviction. I also enjoyed Anne Hathaway, although her screen time is limited. Russell Crowe plays Javert in a performance that shows the right emotion, although his singing is decent - not bad, not  spectacular, but tolerable. The setting and costume design is marvelous and it helps create an immersive atmosphere; the cinematography is also beautiful during some of the large scale set pieces. The music is fantastic from beginning to end; sonically, the film is very consistent and captivating.

Overall, Les Misérables is a magnificent musical; it's captivating thanks to it's dark, compelling story and it's effectively emotional singing, topped off with top-tier performances. The occasionally disconnected storytelling and Russell Crowe's singing were the only minor issues I had with the film. I highly recommend this film for fans of musicals and film in general; to be honest, this is the first musical film I've watched since Repo: The Genetic Opera.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some sex (no nudity).

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