It seems fitting, that a musical, (a love of mine that pretty much matches that of the cinema), should be the film that breaks my film reviewing silence. Since last reviewing, there have been many good films, that I have managed to see. Batman, Brave, and Pitch Perfect are among my favourites, but I have been waiting for this film since Hugh Jackman stated that his pretty face (and singing voice) would love to be a part of Les Mis if it was made into a film. A few years later, Tom Hooper brings this extremely brave and difficult feat to the cinematic screen.
Trying to describe the storyline and it's main characters isn't exactly easy. Looking at it broadly, it is a story of the french revolution; something this film does very well, is actually makes you take interest in this over arching theme. Watching (or singing) the theatrical version, it is too easy to get engrossed with the individual characters and ignore the power and impact that the revolution brings. Hooper creates a superb feeling around thi,s by portraying vivid barricade scenes filled with action and emotionality. Apart from this, the film stays mainly with the character of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a character who having finished his time in prison, ignores his parole and creates a new life for himself, meeting various characters and enemies along the way.
First and foremost, this is a musical, and I have to say that the music is very loyal to the original. It was always going to be hard to create 2 and a half hours of attention-grabbing cinema, whilst maintaing a plot engulfed in song and music. The way Hooper achieves this, is by getting the cast to sing on set, instead of the usual miming and adding in later. The effect (majoratively) is very effective. It feels real and raw, less polished, but this works, due to the fact that les mis as a musical is nowhere near the shiny campness that so many others are. What works a little less well, is the amount of close-up filming. In some scenes this works, but it gets a little tiresome, and often quite uncomfortable when you see the flaws, tears (and even a bit of snot) on the normally sparkly famous faces (which is arguably the effect Hooper is going for).
So, on to the acting. Needless to say, unsuprisingly, Jackman does Jean Valjean justice. He is superb, throughout every scene (including the ones where he looks terrifying), and every song he is unfaltingly powerful and likeable. Some of the acting was straight down the line, suiting the character but giving nothing more and nothing less. These included Rusell Crowe (not a great singer, but justifiable in the acting), Helena Bonham Carter (bored of her sameyness, but does it well nethertheless), Sacha Baron Cohen, and Samantha Barks. The disapointment is Amanda Seyfried. I'm a tiny bit biased, as i'm not her biggest fan, and the character of Cosette is probably the musical's one flaw, but she is just simply, wet. Not impressed at all.
A big suprise for me, was Eddie Redmayne as Marius. Again, not a character I'm huge on, and yes Redmayne is pretty, but from his excerpts in the adverts I wasn't really anticipating much. However, his soulful and emotional performances through some of the saddest parts (little drop of rain, and empty chairs at empty tables) thoroughly won me over. Also pleasantly surprising, were all of the characters involved in the revolution. Aaron Tveit as Enjolras was excellent, and Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche was cheeky enough but still charming.
This leaves us, of course, with Anne Hathaway's Fantine. Not only has there been a lot of coverage and positive acclamation around this, but for me, I dreamed a dream is one of my all time favourite songs, and I wasn't going to sit back and watch it be su-bo massacred. Hathaway, however, is in fact magnificent. I didn't think it would be possible to portray so much anguish, betrayal and hurt in one song without going completely over the top, but somehow Hathaway masters this, and controls it throughout the small amount of screen time that she dominates. She undoubtedly deserves the oscar for her performance, even if only for the fact that she had her hair hacked off on screen.
Overall, this is an epic, beautiful film, that is generally acted extremely well and is made outstanding, by it's beatifully performed music and the superb performances of Jackman, Redmayne and Hathaway.
4.5/5 (darn Sefried)