Les Miserables – 4/5 Movie Reviews by Ry!

Les Miserables – 4/5 – Musicals; when it comes to this niche in cinema, it is hard to grade.  The reason it is hard to grade these types of films is because, they break traditional accords of what defines cinema.  Musicals are all about the elaborate set pieces and dramatic enforcements with singing, you have to judge on the basis of execution and emotional overtones that are brought through its own spectacle.  In saying this, I can say that Les Miserable, with slight missteps, is the best musical I have seen on the big screen.

Set in the backdrop of 19th century France, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), is released from slavery after a decade in servitude.  In his freedom, he decides to break his parole and create a new life for himself.  In this escape, he must weave in and out of hiding from the ruthless policeman chasing him, Javert (Russell Crowe) while also fulfilling his promise to Fantine (Anne Hathaway) to take care of her daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried).  This decision changes his life forever, and begins a sweeping adventure of love, hope and humility.

When it comes to the acting in this film, there are two strong, very noticeable performances.  The first I will mention is Hugh Jackman, who plays the lead, Jean Valjean.  In this role, he brings on screen a man of many dimensions.  You see the depths of agony, the hurt of his convictions, and the strength of endearment when he takes on the task of living a new life and saving the life of a little girl.  He delivers across a sweeping performance in his singing, as you feel a man with depth and guile.  Hugh Jackman, if many of you didn’t know, does a lot of stage plays.  You see his raw talents flourish in this film.  You feel for the character Jean Valjean, and stand beside him, through thick and thin.  I sense a very strong possibility that not only will he be nominated, but will win for best actor for this job well done.  The other great performance, in a supporting role, is Anne Hathaway, who plays Fantine.  There aren’t any words that can best describe how powerful of a performance Anne Hathaway does in the role of Fantine.  A girl, broken down and thrown out because of her past, struggles to find worth in her this world.  Through Hathaway, you feel every word she sings, and believe every word is meaningful to her life.  Heart-wrenching it is to see what happens to her in the film, but her precision of the emotional overtones of hope and pain you see in her eyes is all you need to give a standing ovation.  She is going to win for this role, guaranteed.  For the rest of the cast, which includes the likes of Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Carter and Eddie Redmayne, are great in their roles.  They bring the same kind of powerful overtones a musical character should bring, and helps string the story and scenes together.  From this batch of supporting characters, you have a new comer in Samantha Barks, who brings raw conviction in her role as Eponine. She is another person lost in her misery of love, you feel the agony and pain when she sings her standalone song in the rain.  The one weakness I can find in this film, with all these great actors/actress, is Russell Crowe.  At times, he is good enough in bringing across Javert as a crazed policeman who is headstrong in capturing Valjean, but his portrayal hits a snag in the ‘singing’ department.  When he is left alone to sing, the film drags and the emotions that were building comes to a halt.  The one thing that keeps the film from falling flat completely is his charismatic value; which helps keep the movie moving right along.

The direction of the film is a laced in wandering between sweeping epic set pieces, to stationary characterization.  This direction brings the running time (almost 3 hours) to the forefront, and you do feel the length of the film at times.  The direction also helps invoke the backdrop of 19th century France, which adds to moving scenic value and story elements.  It also does use a lot of quick camera angles and crowd singing, which does become bothersome.  When the film leaves these aspects and focuses on the characterization of specific characters (Like Valjean and Fantine), it helps bring the movie back to its emotional highs.  For the most part, you are encapsulated into the sweeping of the emotions and the life journey that invokes human values constantly.  Since this is a musical, everything is carried by the singing.  As I mentioned above, the singing is delivered well.  When the film drags (singing wise), sadly, is when Russell Crowe is asked to command the scene.  Overall, with the focus staying mostly on the trials and tribulations of Valjean, it helps stitch in all the side stories, as well as corral in the hearty comedic elements with the dramatic emotional overtones you experience.

The visuals keep the film at a more constant tone.  The lighting and camera usage, along with the 19th century France set pieces help invoke a slow saturation into a world of the past, but keeps you involved from beginning to end.  As before, the sweeping of each set piece is over the top and eccentric, but since this is a trait of a musical, its value is brought to the forefront.  In emphasizing this, it hides the elements of feeling the world.  The score is what it is; being a musical, it is a common value that invokes the emotions along with the acting.  Not going to go in depth with the score because it pretty much is great because of the value from the characters.

Overall, this movie feels like a magical journey.  It is great that a musical of this quality can be brought to screen, but to be brought across so raw and vivid makes it a masterpiece.  Great acting and awesome visuals helps move along through the sometimes cluttered direction and dramatic overtones.  If you’re looking for a great time for the family or just a great musical, this is one for you.

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