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Les Misérables

2012 | 158 min | PG-13 | 1.85:1

Les Misérables


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User reviews

9 user reviews

Movie appeal




Theatrical release date

 25 December, 2012
 11 January, 2013

Country of origin

 United Kingdom

Technical aspects

IMAX, 158 minutes

Box office




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Screenshots from Les Misérables Blu-ray

Les Misérables Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, December 24, 2012

Victor Hugo’s celebrated 1862 novel concerning crime and punishment has been turned into a great number of features throughout the years. However, this “Les Miserables” takes its cues from the 1980 French musical, which sprouted to blockbuster life when it found an English translation in 1985. Beloved by millions who’ve grown accustomed to the safe distances and narrow expanse of the stage production, the movie smashes the divide between the actors and the audience, with director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) creating a decidedly raw and intimate film that aches to preserve the soulfulness of the performances and the fiery poetry of the lyrics. “Les Miserables” makes a few controversial moves along the way, but it is, at its heart, grand entertainment, with a concentration on anguish that cuts all the way to the bone.

After 19 years of hard labor in prison for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is finally released from prison, with police inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) making sure to stain Valjean’s life as a criminal. After enduring rejection from the outside world, Valjean finds kindness from the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson), inspiring the broken man to reinvent himself as a gentleman, assuming a new identity as an upstanding factory owner, allowing him to grow as a man of power, soon employing Fantine (Anne Hathaway). A desperate woman struggling to earn money to care for her illegitimate daughter Cosette, Fantine loses her job in the factory, tossed out onto the street where she destroys herself as a prostitute. Made aware of her sacrifice, Valjean takes in Cosette, raising her as his own. As the years pass, Valjean has numerous run-ins with Javert, triggering an unusual relationship of patience between the two, while Cosette (played as an adult by Amanda Seyfried) falls in love with student revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne), which breaks the heart of young Eponine (Samantha Barks), the daughter of local scoundrels Thenardier (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Madame (Helena Bonham Carter).

“Les Miserables” is an enormous production with a multitude of characters and emotional speeds. That Hooper could even wrap his hands around the material is nothing short of amazing. While the musical was allowed a sense of stillness to carry out its dramatic intentions, Hooper dreams bigger, creating a screen land of grim reality, with massive displays of rotting architecture and street life populated with all types of unsavory sorts. “Les Miserables” is home on the big screen, though to secure his vision for character intimacy, Hooper shoots the action with a hand-held tightness intending to capture every last quiver of doubt from the actors. It’s disorienting at first, but the rhythm of this cinematography is quickly identified, generating a union with the performers as they pour their hearts out for the camera. Production design achievements and costuming are lovingly crafted, isolating the grittiness of this cursed world, but the film remains with the human elements, watching the professionals process the emotional needs of the story. Hooper keeps the viewing experience tight, which is exactly what “Les Miserables” requires to achieve cinematic impact.

In an unusual move, Hooper has elected to have his actors sing live on-set, refusing the ease of lip-sync and its depressingly cosmetic nature. To hear these performers belt out songs of passion and loss, of national pride and love, is simply miraculous, channeled through the likes of Jackman, who’s flawless as Valjean, and Hathaway, whose sublimely tortured rendering of “I Dreamed a Dream” is enough to melt the coldest of hearts. The cast is teeming with golden throats and fierce commitment to the highs and lows of the tale, while Hooper keeps the narrative moving along with impressive speed, eager to explore the details of devastation with an ensemble that’s prepared for war, popping a few blood vessels along the way. The only weak link in the chain is Crowe, who can’t compete with his highly trained castmates, while his take on Javert’s extended meltdown is unexpectedly flat, unable to seize the tumultuous waves of doubt and denial as the inspector is rocked by Valjean’s compassion. Crowe swallows his songs and underplays the agony, looking like a mannequin next to animated efforts from the rest of the cast.

How die-hard fans will react to “Les Miserables” remains to be seen, though Hooper does make the adaptation interesting by adding a new number for Valjean and young Cosette, while the general intensity of the piece is sure to feel like 3D to those raised on musical theater and cast soundtracks. The general story is preserved, with its revolutionary asides, vague stabs at comedy, and seething acts of punishment, keeping “Les Miserables” familiar while it pounds out its own identity for the screen. It’s a boldly conceived effort with stunning performances and a searing sense of despair, yet the world-famous music lives on, supporting a unique attempt to strip the theatrical behemoth down to its purest elements of stinging emotion.

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Russell Crowe, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter
Director: Tom Hooper

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Les Misérables, Forum Discussions

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Les Miserables (Film Musical) 29 Nov 06, 2012

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