REVIEW: Les Misérables (2013)

Jean Valjean, known as Prisoner 24601, is released from prison and breaks parole to create a new life for himself while evading the grip of the persistent Inspector Javert. Set in post-revolutionary France, the story reaches resolution against the background of the June Rebellion.

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The plot in this movie is truly moving and intertwines well between all of the characters who more or less all interact with each other over time, the music brings them all together with a strong ensemble chorus and amazing solo efforts from some of the films key characters. The movie wastes no time introducing the music, well you would expect that from a musical. It starts off strong with an imprisoned Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) serving his sentence for stealing a loaf of bread, the camera rises from the ocean with a French flag glistening under the water. The music begins to fade in and the camera pans towards endless lines of prisoners standing in line one behind the other huffing and puffing as they pull in a damaged ship, they begin to sing ‘Look Down’. Such a strong number for the film to start on. Jean Valjean is released on parole by prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) after serving a nineteen year sentence. The chemistry between these two great actors in the film is unbelievable and they continue to have a great rivalry which has a deep effect on the rest of the story line.

As the films moves on it jumps through time, eight years after Jean Valjean vows to start a new life and breaks his parole. We then next see him as a mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer and the owner of a factory where Fantine (Anne Hathaway) reluctantly works. She is soon out on the streets and does whatever she can to provide for her daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen) who lives with ruthless and wacky Thénardiers (Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen). This then provides a new side to the film Sacha Baron Cohen known for his comedic values adds great subtle humor to the film and it almost cheers the of the film up, the Innkeeper scene is one of the best in the film and it was superbly done. Fantine then sings ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ one of the most iconic musical songs ever, and with Anne Hathaway’s performance you can see why she won an Oscar for it, I cant believe she only did it in one take, it was one of the best things I have ever seen. Such emotion shown through song, one of the best moments in the film, fantastic!

The film then jumps a further nine years to when Cosette is growing up (now portrayed by Amanda Seyfried), she then gets a passing glimpse of Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne) and they instantly fall in love.

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Now you have an idea of where the story is going… I wont say anymore. Filled with themes of Hope,  Love, Despair, Dreams and War the film continues to sparkle with its hard hitting story, emotional performances and music.

There a number of characters in the film that strike me as important characters and the actors will not go unnoticed, all of the characters were portrayed brilliantly. The actors brought them to life with fantastic characterization and all of this was portrayed through song like a true musical unlike Mamma Mia. The first character we see is Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman; top) unlike many of the other characters he is the most consistent throughout the movie and is in almost every part, with a fabulous performance of ‘Bring Him Home’ Hugh Jackman really captured the emotions that Valjean would be feeling and his voice was phenomenal, how he didn’t win an Oscar for it i don’t know! Although Russell Crowe didn’t have the best vocals for Javert that I have heard he still did a great job, he was chilling, dominant and dark, his performance hadn’t gone unnoticed. While there are loads of characters I could talk about there is just one more I would like to elaborate on and that is Fantine (Anne Hathaway) although only appearing in the film for a short time she has a long lasting effect on the events of the future and the end of the film, her performance of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ was exceptional. With appearances from Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen proving to be truly funny all of the aspects came together in which a great movie was truly made.

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The film contains every song from the original stage musical with the exception of “I Saw Him Once” and “Dog Eats Dog”. The Bishop sings with Fantine during “Valjean’s Death” instead of Eponine, as was in the stage musical. The lyrics of some songs were also changed to suit the changes in setting or narrative to the stage musical (this was done for Mamma Mia to fit in with the story line) In addition to the cuts, a new song, “Suddenly” was added, new music was composed for the battle scenes, and the order of several songs has changed from the stage musical. The music plays a huge part in the film and out of everything was my favorite part. It was interesting to see how the actors would cope with performing the songs live whilst filming and you can see that it pays off, this way more true emotion is shown through their characters when singing. A number of songs caught my attention; ‘Bring Him Home’ sung by Hugh Jackman, ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ sung by Anne Hathaway, ‘Stars’ by Russell Crowe, but the songs I enjoyed the most were the songs that intertwined different characters for example One More Day sung by the ensemble cast and several individuals.

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Les Misérables rings with emotion and power of the source and provides a new model for the movie musical. The characters developed throughout and the actors sung their hearts out. Full of spectacular camera shots and filmed in brilliant locations this is a film you are not going to want to miss… even if you aren’t a fan of musicals I strongly recommend this film, even though it was the longest two and a half hours of my life fantastic never the less.

Overall Rating 4.5/5

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