Tom Hooper‘s Les Misérables is an all out stage musical for the big screen featuring all of the iconic music delivered by a large and immensely talented cast.
Les Misérables is one of the biggest names in the world of musicals and this 2012 adaptation stands out with its impressive production design, sweeping choreography, and fantastic musical performances across the board. The 2 hour and 40 minute runtime coupled with the fact that almost the entirety of the dialogue is delivered through song may turn off anyone who isn’t an avid fan of musicals. However if the musical genre is your thing then Les Misérable is a must see event. The story follows Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who spends decades of his life being hunted by Javert (Russell Crowe) whilst caring for a child by the name of Cosette (Amanda Seyfried). It’s a story driven by emotional highs and lows told through music that may bring you to tears. The fact that there is no conversational dialogue means that the bulk of the story is delivered either visually or through song. The execution of this is fantastic. It doesn’t waste time spelling out every detail, rather it gives you enough through the song lyrics and visuals so that you never lose a hold of what is going on.
It’s a truly compelling plot and does an incredible job introducing the main characters in the first act so that you care about them strongly throughout the events that follow. It’s also impressive that for the number of characters in here Les Misérables not only gets you to care about the secondary characters who have limited screen time in comparison to the main players but also to remember them after the credits roll. Tom Hooper inserts a number of subtle visual and audial callbacks throughout the film and it really heightens the experience overall. Picking out callbacks across the film is rewarding in its own right but it also makes the entire story so much more meaningful when key moments are linked together. There are some tonal fluctuations over the course of the story, most are seamless but a small number of them could have been executed with a little more fluidity. As far as the pacing goes it moves a little slow at some points but is never boring at any point during its lengthy runtime.
Hugh Jackman is undoubtedly the star of the show here, his performance as Jean Valjean is nearly immaculate from beginning to end. He brings a tonne of emotion to the story as the central protagonist but he most certainly isn’t alone as the entire ensemble cast is incredible. Anne Hathaway has a supporting role as Fantine and what she manages to do with such a limited role is powerful and will stick with you long after the film ends. Her performance in here is my favourite of the cast because of the heart she brings to all of her scenes but also because of the strength of her delivery of “I Dreamed A Dream”. Her musical number was so well delivered I’d say it’s the scene that single-handedly won her the Oscar. Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, and Eddie Redmayne are also all fantastic in their own rights contributing to the heart and emotion but also do well to sell you on the drama within the story itself. Russell Crowe specifically is great as the central antagonist and considering he’s not really as musically experienced as much of the other cast I still really enjoyed his musical sequences.
Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen play minor antagonists in the story and where I thought they were great in their roles I didn’t love them as much as the other characters in the story. They provide some light humour here and there and their musical numbers typically have a much different tone to everything else going on. I didn’t dislike the contrast their characters bring I just thought they were fine.
The music is why everyone flocks to Les Misérables and it’s for good reason because there really isn’t a bad song in here. The lyrics across the board are great and as I mentioned earlier work so well in telling the story and giving more insight into the characters essentially developing them gradually through song. The visual elements of each of the musical sequences are just as crucial and well executed as the audial elements. The production design is immaculate to the point where you buy the fact that you are in 19th-century France through both the smaller scale sequences and larger ensemble scenes. The choreography of the musical sequences is on point and the detail that has been put in to make sure every on-screen action fits within the tempo of the music is great.
Les Misérables is a musical that I held off on watching for 6 years and now very much regret it because it really is a spectacle that no fan of the genre should miss. You have fantastic performances from the entire ensemble cast including secondary characters, riveting back-to-back-to-back musical numbers, and a gripping emotion-driven story that’ll entice you to have tissues at the ready. There really isn’t much I disliked about the film and even then there wasn’t a single minute in which I was bored. My biggest negative is that it left me confused because after each musical sequence I wanted to clap like I’m watching a stage musical but then remembered I’m watching a movie… Quite possibly the best dilemma to have whilst watching a musical.