Victor Hugo's epic tale Les Misérables has been gloriously adapted for the stage, and now for the big screen. With such big names as Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway, expectations were high - and director Tom Hooper has delivered magnificently.
To be honest, when I began writing this review I had no idea where to start. So I'll start with what people remember most after seeing Les Misérables: the incredibly heavy emotional impact. Granted, it was set during one of the more short-lived attempts at a French revolution, but there are no punches pulled. Which, in my opinion, is as it should be: life was brutal and bloody and nobody was spared, especially not the poor.
The main feature that makes this different to other filmed musicals is that all the singing was recorded as it was being filmed, not done in a studio and dubbed over afterwards. This really makes a difference, because you get to see everybody act whilst singing -- which makes the performances not just more difficult, but far more realistic (or as realistic as it can be). Hugh Jackman is a prime example of this when he tackles Jean Valjean's soliloquys; half whispered, half sung, all fantastic.
Speaking of singing, there have been some complaints about Russell Crowe as Javert, the implacable policeman with a grudge. "He barks his lines!" they say. "He can't sing!" they insist. Personally, I think he can -- but even if he couldn't, it wouldn't bother me much, because it suits the character so well. Javert doesn't have any music or melody in him. Javert is the embodiment of stern, unfeeling authority - demanding and controlling and shouting orders. For him to sound like a nightingale would be completely incongruous, like seeing the guillotine itself start singing. Anyone who knows the basics of musical theatre -- which this is, despite being a film -- knows the importance of emoting the character through your voice. This is what Russell Crowe does, and he does it admirably
Meanwhile, Eddie Redmayne (Birdsong, The Other Boleyn Girl) really cracked the character of Marius Pontmercy. He is naive and romantic and absolutely wonderful. The same goes for Samantha Barks as Eponine and Amanda Seyfried as Cossette. Samantha Barks performs her solo song, 'On My Own', beautifully; she won the role over Taylor Swift (which I am incredibly glad about, since I doubt Swift could put half as much feeling and frankly talent into the role). This is, incidentally, Barks' first big screen role.
Sadly for Amanda Seyfried, Cossette doesn't get very much screentime, but she does real justice to what she does get. And of course, Sacha Baron Cohen as Thérnardier brings some much needed but well-timed comedy to the film, though Helena Bonham Carter's Madame Thérnardier - whilst good - sounds very much like her Mrs Lovett.
All in all, this was an absolute emotional rollercoaster of a film, and I wasn't the only one in the cinema in tears by the end. Don't see it if you're someone who doesn't like musicals because "there's too much singing" -- there are about seven spoken lines in the whole two and a half hours. For everyone else: go and see it now. 10/10