Writers: Herbert Kretzmer & William Nicholson
Director: Tom Hooper
Viewed: Saturday December 30 2012 @ Event Cinemas Chermside, Brisbane.
I’ve been looking forward to the release of Les Mis for a long while now. With the Oscar winning Director of The King’s Speech at the helm and such an awesome cast filled with big names and veterans of the musical announced, it was always going to be something to behold. I don’t think too many fans are going to find themselves disappointed with how their beloved musical has been brought to the screen (for it is indeed a great spectacle), but how does it fare at just being an entertaining movie?
In 1815 France, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman, in-between Wolverine movies) is released from prison and the tyranny of policeman Javert (Russell Crowe, Gladiator), but when Jean Valjean is helped by a Priest (Colm Wilkinson, The Phantom of the Opera), decides to turn his life around, and skips parole, Javert begins a decades long pursuit of his nemesis. Eight years later and Valjean is now a business owner and mayor of a small French town. Working in one of his factories is Fantine (Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises) who is fired when the other workers take a dislike to her. Turning to prostitution to pay for the care of her daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen), Fantine soon becomes fatally ill and is discovered by Valjean who vows to care for her dauther as his own. He then collects Collette from her “carers” The Thenardiers’ (Sacha Baron Cowen, Bruno & Helena Bonham Carter, Big Fish) but once again must go on the run from, now Inspector, Javert. Another decade or so later and the French Revolution is imminent. Valjean is still in hiding with the now grown Cosette (Amanda Seyfried, Mamma Mia!) but when she falls in love with a Revolutionary named Marius (Eddie Redmayne, My Week With Marilyn) things get even more complicated. Soon there is war and many, many characters are dead.
Les Mis is a BIG movie. Big anticipation, big cast, big songs, big scope. Everything about it is larger than life, which is what a good musical needs to be. There are fantastic performance littered throughout the cast, particularly Jackman, Hathaway and Redmayne. There has been talk of Oscar nominations for Jackman and Hathaway and both deserve it (perhaps not the win, but at least the nomination). They give it their all. The dedication shown and performances given on screen, all round, come from a great love and respect for the material. The weakest link is by far Russell Crowe, who appears unable to convey any emotion through song (or his face) meaning Javert’s finale has little impact (expect for the literal impact involved). Other deaths had me in tears.
As well as being big, Les Mis is a long movie. At two and a half hours, it’s a little too long. Trims could have been made. The first two acts of the movie flow quickly as you are swept away by the grandeur and the mad pacing (we fly from one close-up dominated number to the next so that you’re barely able to absorb what you have just seen), but as we move in to the final act, the rise of the Revolution, things slow down considerably. Much of this is due to the introduction of the love story between Cosette and Marius which is woefully underdeveloped. By this point in the proceedings there isn’t enough to get us completely invested in this love that is blossomed from but a single glance. It’s hard to swallow and many of the character’s actions throughout the entire finale are reliant on us believing in it. Both Seyfried and Redmayne do what they can with what they have though and Seyfried even manages to redeem herself slightly for Mamma Mia!.
With barely a spoken word, Les Mis isn’t exactly targeted at regular cinema goers and, as I said, fans of the musical aren’t going to be complaining much about what they see here. All the big numbers are there, the performances are amazing (having the actors sing live on set instead of lip-synching to a soundtrack offers an extra level of realism and emotion, mostly), and the sets and designs are breath-taking. I wish Hooper had have kept his cameras steady every once in a while, and the final act almost causes whip-lash with it’s change of pace, but there are only small complaints to be made here. For all these reasons I give Les Misérables 4 Rant and Rave Points.
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