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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Hugh Jackman
Russell Crowe
Eddie Redmayne
Anne Hathaway
Helena Bonham Carter
Sacha Baron Cohen
Samantha Barks
Amanda Seyfried.
Directors
Tom Hooper.
Screenwriters
William Nicholson.
Running Time
158 minutes

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Les Miserables
Beyond the barricades


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Plot
Jean Valjean (Jackman), imprisoned for 19 years for a minor offence, is paroled but perpetually shadowed by Inspector Javert (Crowe). When he takes in the foundling daughter of the tragic Fantine (Hathaway), he finds a reason to keep his freedom.


Review
Les Miserables
Browse more images »
Les Miserables opens big. The camera sweeps over gilded, bulbous warships, blasted by coastal waves, to the hundreds of miserable wretches inching one of these monsters into the Toulon dry dock on waterlogged ropes. This vast chain gang sings Look Down in a rumbling bass that’s close to a dirge, and the tone is set. This is not the sort of musical where people dance their cares away, but one where people’s cares seem to rip songs from their throats. Through all that follows, the moments of levity and romance as well as the suffering, Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Herbert Kretzmer’s juggernaut of a musical never fails to take its subject matter seriously, its raw, brutal edge in tune with Victor Hugo’s melodrama of the downtrodden and destitute.

Hugh Jackman, matching Jean Valjean’s fabled strength, carries the plot on his shoulders. Only he and Russell Crowe’s Javert remain constants through the 17 years of the film’s plot, and only Valjean really grows during that time, since Javert’s inflexibility is his defining trait.

We first meet Valjean as a convict, making futile demands that his jailer respect him as a fellow human being — only to be rebuffed by the didactic Javert. On parole he meets only rejection and prejudice, descending into animal-like desperation and spitting bitterness before a miraculous second chance sees Valjean resolve to match the faith shown in him in the film’s most emotionally complex scene. Righteous fury rages with a rekindled sense of virtue; wounded pride and a thirst for justice compete with hope of redemption, and somehow from the conflagration a morally upright man emerges.

As with all the film’s high emotion, this is communicated entirely in song, sung live on set and with veins frequently popping from the effort. Hooper’s commitment to live performance no doubt added hugely to the stress of the shoot, but in return for a few wobbly high notes he gets a unique, visceral punch. The vocals aren’t as flawless as, say, Alfie Boe managed onstage — Jackman struggles with the famously difficult Bring Him Home, and at times Crowe wobbles into rock stylings — but the drama is stronger for it.

Not everything is so successful. The Paris soundstages feel small and poky, and different angles of shot might have avoided a sometimes stagey feel and the jarring contrast with the outdoor scenes, which deliver a glorious Delacroix look and scale. The sprawling structure of the show, too, means that high emotion breaks in wave after wave without reprieve, cinematic close-ups magnifying the impact. At its best, that effect sees Anne Hathaway reclaim I Dreamed A Dream from Susan Boyle and ruin the song for all who follow her. Angry, defiant and broken all at once, it is a definitive performance, and though her part amounts to barely a montage and this one sublime solo, don’t be surprised to see her on an Oscar podium come February.

But after that emotional wallop, the love story between Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Valjean’s ward, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), can’t overcome her character’s inherent drippiness, leaving you impatient to get to the revolutionary stuff when students led by the idealistic Enjolras (Aaron Tveit) fight a hopeless uprising in the people’s name and Javert encounters Valjean once more. When these big moments arrive, the cast rise with full-throated determination and deliver a musical unlike any other.


Verdict
Occasionally, like its characters, ragged around the edges, this nevertheless rings with all the emotion and power of the source and provides a new model for the movie musical.


Reviewed by Helen O'Hara

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Les Miserables
Empire Star Rating

I thought this was ace!

This is not the kind of movie I normally choose to see. At three hours, it's a commitment to sit through, it's serious in content, not something to take on lightly. But... 'Avengers: Assemble' gets a five star review. And two movies I walked out of get the same four stars as this. So, at the end of the day, you take the movie as you found it, not going by what a movie reviewer tells you. (You can't tell me that Miike Takashi's stuff is worth watching - it just ain't!) Russell Crowe sing... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by FaudeCarfilhiot at 10:57, 18 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: NO WAY HELEN O HARA THIS IS FIVE STARS!

L: Drone I have to be honest; if I hear one more fucking trendy jackass refer to this as "Lez Miz" I will break their teeth. I call it that because Tubbs does in the League of Gentlemen. I always say it in the same way as well. ... More

Posted by squeezyrider at 17:10, 17 January 2013 | Report This Post


Emotive And Beautifully Staged

Not being familiar with the story or the music of Les Mis, I was greatly anticipating going to see this and adding another slice of culture to myself. The film itself is well realized, with some exceptional cinematography and direction. Tom Hooper is fast making a name for himself in terms of his filmic direction and his style. The off-centre mid range camera shots he swears by suit the tone of this film perfectly, and there's even some impressive long takes during some of the slower songs. As m... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 16:48, 17 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: NO WAY HELEN O HARA THIS IS FIVE STARS!

L: Drone I have to be honest; if I hear one more fucking trendy jackass refer to this as "Lez Miz" I will break their teeth. 'm not sure 'trendy's the right word considering people have been calling it that for nigh on thirty years. ... More

Posted by horribleives at 06:45, 17 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: NO WAY HELEN O HARA THIS IS FIVE STARS!

L: Drone I have to be honest; if I hear one more fucking trendy jackass refer to this as "Lez Miz" I will break their teeth. ez Miz. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 23:30, 16 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: NO WAY HELEN O HARA THIS IS FIVE STARS!

I have to be honest; if I hear one more fucking trendy jackass refer to this as "Lez Miz" I will break their teeth. ... More

Posted by Drone at 21:48, 16 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: NO WAY HELEN O HARA THIS IS FIVE STARS!

This film was amazing from start to finish I literally couldn't take my eyes off the screen, Anne Hathaway literally is the stand out star of this film, and breaks your heart when she sings I Dreamed a Dream. Russell Crowe is also suprsingly good in his role and shows a vulnerable side to his character. And Hugh Jackman as usual is cast perfectly in this theatrical role. My only criticism is the Therandier's as they seem a bit too OTT comedy and it kind of breaks away from the film. I've s... More

Posted by SarahBanks195 at 12:24, 16 January 2013 | Report This Post


A wasted opportunity.

Crowe cannot sing. Jackman made a bollocks of Bring Him Home. One point for Hathaway. Haven't had a case of numb bum like that in years. zzzzzzzzz ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by sephiroth7 at 17:01, 15 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: NO WAY HELEN O HARA THIS IS FIVE STARS!

L: Dr Lenera Boyks for your comment, no I wasn't moved at all, though I really wanted to be! Regarding the close-ups, I hated them but if someone can explain why they are so good then go ahead tell me! The shakycam though- there is NO excuse for having the camera shake about whenever somebody runs in my opinion. eivesplay, I don't normally get so worked up about a film, and may have gone over the top, but I really feared for cinema in parts of this film, even though far worse fil... More

Posted by BelfastBoy at 13:17, 15 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: NO WAY HELEN O HARA THIS IS FIVE STARS!

Boyks for your comment, no I wasn't moved at all, though I really wanted to be! Regarding the close-ups, I hated them but if someone can explain why they are so good then go ahead tell me! The shakycam though- there is NO excuse for having the camera shake about whenever somebody runs in my opinion. eivesplay, I don't normally get so worked up about a film, and may have gone over the top, but I really feared for cinema in parts of this film, even though far worse films will come out this ... More

Posted by Dr Lenera at 21:02, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: NO WAY HELEN O HARA THIS IS FIVE STARS!

It is...ok? Some really powerful moments, but a really drawn out final act and the epic opening shot is sadly the only time the movie really feels BIG. ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 17:22, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: NO WAY HELEN O HARA THIS IS FIVE STARS!

True, we've all been personally disappointed when we don't enjoy a film as much as we were hoping (Killing Them Softly would be a recent example for me). But when I dislike a film it doesn't bother me in the slightest if other people like it. ... More

Posted by horribleives at 17:11, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: NO WAY HELEN O HARA THIS IS FIVE STARS!

L: horribleives L: Dr Lenera France 1815: convict Jean Valjean is released on parole by prison guard Javert after serving a nineteen-year sentence. When he steals silver from a bishop who gives him shelter and the bishop lies so he is released by the authorities, Valjean breaks his parole and vows to start an honest life under a new identity, though Javert swears he will bring the escaped convict to justice. Eight years later, Valjean has become mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer a... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 17:04, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: NO WAY HELEN O HARA THIS IS FIVE STARS!

L: Dr Lenera France 1815: convict Jean Valjean is released on parole by prison guard Javert after serving a nineteen-year sentence. When he steals silver from a bishop who gives him shelter and the bishop lies so he is released by the authorities, Valjean breaks his parole and vows to start an honest life under a new identity, though Javert swears he will bring the escaped convict to justice. Eight years later, Valjean has become mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer and owner of a factory whe... More

Posted by horribleives at 16:58, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Mis

L: Qwerty Norris L: Dannybohy L: Coyleone w this and I have to say, by about half way through I wanted to reach in to the screen, take Crowe' s Rifle from him and literally shoot myself in the face with ital has never been a genre I've particularly liked, but this took it to a whole new level of dislike. The vocal performances were honestly so annoying and emotionless (bar Hathaway, who was brilliant), I'm all for a song or six, but having everything sung to me, every si... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 16:45, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Mis

L: Dannybohy L: Coyleone w this and I have to say, by about half way through I wanted to reach in to the screen, take Crowe' s Rifle from him and literally shoot myself in the face with ital has never been a genre I've particularly liked, but this took it to a whole new level of dislike. The vocal performances were honestly so annoying and emotionless (bar Hathaway, who was brilliant), I'm all for a song or six, but having everything sung to me, every single line of dialogue, ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 16:34, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Mis

L: Coyleone w this and I have to say, by about half way through I wanted to reach in to the screen, take Crowe' s Rifle from him and literally shoot myself in the face with ital has never been a genre I've particularly liked, but this took it to a whole new level of dislike. The vocal performances were honestly so annoying and emotionless (bar Hathaway, who was brilliant), I'm all for a song or six, but having everything sung to me, every single line of dialogue, in an awfully monotone... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 16:11, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Miserables

L: Qwerty Norris L: Dannybohy L: Qwerty Norris L: Dannybohy Watch the Liam Neeson movie version instead!! much better and this singing nonsense!!ote] But if you walked out half way through the film, how would you know? ecause I didn't walk out half way through the Liam Neeson movie. et you've compared that film to one that you haven't seen half of, so how could you possibly know? nce again, it's a friggin' musical! Honestly, what were you expe... More

Posted by Whistler at 16:00, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Miserables

L: Dannybohy L: Qwerty Norris L: Dannybohy Watch the Liam Neeson movie version instead!! much better and none of this singing nonsense!! ut if you walked out half way through the film, how would you know? ecause I didn't walk out half way through the Liam Neeson movie. et you've compared that film to one that you haven't seen half of, so how could you possibly know? ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 15:45, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Miserables

L: Qwerty Norris L: Dannybohy Watch the Liam Neeson movie version instead!! much better and none of this singing nonsense!! ut if you walked out half way through the film, how would you know? ecause I didn't walk out half way through the Liam Neeson movie. Seriously , Liam was great as Jean and Rush was a far far superior Javert!, Crowe looks like he just couldn't be bothered! . Worth a watch ... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 15:44, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Miserables

L: Dannybohy Watch the Liam Neeson movie version instead!! much better and none of this singing nonsense!! ut if you walked out half way through the film, how would you know? ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 15:42, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Miserables

Watch the Liam Neeson movie version instead!! much better and none of this singing nonsense!! ... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 15:39, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Miserables

Seen this yesterday - a curious experience. Considering I'm not the greatest fan of musicals (particularly ones that started off as a theatre production first), I'm probably not the best person to judge its merits...but I'll try. Les Miserables is a strange concoction of trying to do something cinematic with a source firmly within the confines of a stage production. The subversions of its roots lie in its usage of close-ups and the occasional CGI-enfused sweeping shot which of course ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 15:17, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Miserables

I really don't understand all the criticism of Crowe. I liked his voice. ... More

Posted by Whistler at 14:44, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Miserables

Having literally no clue about Les Mis was all about, I kind of loved this. The first hour or so, up until Valjean takes Cosette away is absolutely perfect for me; the standout songs being "Valjean's Soliloquy," ending with him ripping up the letter, "Lovely Ladies," catchy and then turning on a dime with Anne Hathaway's "...dead," "I Dreamed a Dream" was suitably gut wrenching. The second half, with all the Rebellion stuff was slightly underwhelming however. Never bad, just a littl... More

Posted by jcthefirst at 12:14, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


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