Les Miserables

WRITTEN BY: William Nicholson
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfriend, Eddie Redmayne
RATING: 5 stars

It is the unfortunate fact that many musical theatre productions fail to be successfully adapted to film. There are certain things that work on stage that do not work on film. Les Miserables is one of the most iconic musicals in history delving into themes of love, compassion, redemption, justice, human rights and courage. Thanks to the genius of Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech), audiences can finally enjoy a masterpiece musical on film.

Based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel and the musical theatre production, Les Miserables is set in 19th Century France just after the revolution. Prisoner 24601 Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released from prison after 19 years but is soon hunted by ruthless policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) after he breaks parole. Valjean is able to turn his life around and become an entrepreneur and mayor. He agrees to care for Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of factory worker turned prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway) but Valjean and Cosette are forced to live their lives on the run as Javert continues to track them down. Meanwhile, Cosette shares a romance with Marius (Eddie Redmayne), much to the heartache of Eponine (Samantha Barks) who pines for him. Plus, a group of young men, including Marius, plan a political rebellion.

There are several things that audiences must be aware of before they see this film. First, there is hardly any spoken dialogue. Almost every line is sung and the actors did it live on camera – there was no lip syncing to a recorded track. It works fantastically, and while some have been critical of Hooper's style of camera work, I enjoyed it. Also, the film is quite long, running close to three hours, but the time flies quickly with the complex plot sure to keep you interested.

Valjean is one of the most heroic characters ever created in literature. Although I've seen the theatre production several times and own a copy of the original soundtrack, it's hard even for me to imagine anyone else being able to pull off a performance more convincing than Jackman who lost so much weight and spent much of his time displaying vast emotions through facial expressions. It really is the role he was born to play and if he doesn't win an Academy Award, the voters are blind. Hathaway is equally powerful and should also win an Oscar. I cried watching her sing I Dreamed A Dream with heartfelt pain. Crowe is not as vocally strong as his counterparts but is very menacing in his role, while Redmayne again brought tears to my eyes when he sang Empty Chairs At Empty Tables and Seyfried was also quite moving.

Many actors who portrayed characters on stage have taken on roles in the film, including a small but beautiful performance from Colm Wilkinson who plays the bishop. He played Valjean in the original London and New York stage productions. Barks also reprised her stage role as Eponine and again the tears flowed when she sang On My Own. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are also entertaining as the Thenardiers and provide some much needed laughs to break up the misery without interfering with the flow.

I can't say enough how much I loved this film. Hooper has assembled an amazing cast to do the book and the stage musical justice.