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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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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
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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

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 12:13, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Miserables

I think its a bit of an insulting kick in the face to theatrical singers when you say they are singing for note perfection rather than putting their emotions into it. I loved Hugh Jackman was a brilliant Valjean, he really made the role his own and I was completely convinced in his struggle. However, Colm Wilkinson (who played The Bishop at the beginning and the end) will always be the definitive Valjean, purely because his performance is one of the emotive I will ever witness. When he sings, h... More

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


RE: Les Miserables

Well its 2013 and this is the first movie in along time I walked out of half way through!. I was just that bored and underwhelmed! I left my Wife and Friend to endure to the end!. Its badly cast, badly acted , badly sung!. Some musicals just don't work on the screen. I thoroughly enjoyed the non-Musical version with Liam Neeson! so assumed I would enjoy the 'proper' version!. painful stuff. I went home and ended up watching 'As good as it gets' on Lovefilm! so the day didn't end too badly... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 08:57, 14 January 2013 | Report This Post


Les Miserables

I really enjoyed it. Certainly it will help if you're a fan of musicals - which I am - and while Les Mis isn't my very favourite, I had a great time. All of the cast are excellent, both with their acting and singing (yes Kermode, even Russell Crowe), the direction is assured, the sets are wonderfully designed, and there's just a real sense of grandeur about the whole thing. There was clapping in my screening too, and even a whistle or two, so it's definitely working for the majority. And I ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Whistler at 20:30, 13 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 BelfastBoy at 19:58, 13 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Mis

Just saw 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 it. Musical 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 dreary... More

Posted by Coyleone at 18:15, 13 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Mis

HELEN O eez, give the caps lock a break ... More

Posted by rich at 16:49, 13 January 2013 | Report This Post


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

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 where Fantine, one of the... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 15:16, 13 January 2013 | Report This Post


NO WAY HELEN O HARA THIS IS FIVE STARS!

Wow is all I can say for this. I always wanted to see Les Mis at the theater and I've been aware of it since I was a kid. When I first saw the trailer for it in the cinema I was so excited. I hardly knew anything about the plot or anything and recently I had to avoid all reviews and news spots and turn the radio off because everyone is talking about it. But now I've seen all I can say is wow Hugh Jackman is just sensationally brilliant. I have never been in a "Cinema" audience where e... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bighousewill at 14:38, 13 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Mis

L: AxlReznor The opening of the movie is a bit all over the place, but it picks up as soon as Anne Hathaway first appears on screen. Every good things that's been said about her performance is absolutely correct. One of the things I've always disliked about stage musicals is that the actors always seem to sing the notes of the song, but they don't actually sing the feelings. They're more concerned with being technically perfect than convincing people that they are actually feeling what th... More

Posted by BelfastBoy at 10:10, 13 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Mis

I loved it. The real standouts for me were Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne (ng Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche. I didn't really like Jackman's rendition of Bring Him Home though. Colm Wilkinson's version from the play sounded like a desperate man praying to God (it was a real pleasure seeing him as the Priest btw), this sounded off to me (I can't find the words to describe it unfortunately. Throaty? Nasally?). Nor was I overly keen on Russell Crowe either. Sometimes he seemed fine, ... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 00:18, 13 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Mis

Sadly people clapped at the end of the showing I was at. I am absolutely astounded that people applaud and critics praise what is such an incompetently directed film. It makes me seriously worry about the future of cinema. I'm going to try and do a review tomorrow, but at the moment am still angry to say anymore ... More

Posted by Dr Lenera at 23:22, 12 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Mis

The opening of the movie is a bit all over the place, but it picks up as soon as Anne Hathaway first appears on screen. Every good things that's been said about her performance is absolutely correct. One of the things I've always disliked about stage musicals is that the actors always seem to sing the notes of the song, but they don't actually sing the feelings. They're more concerned with being technically perfect than convincing people that they are actually feeling what the song is about. No... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 20:23, 12 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Mis

Title reset ... More

Posted by rich at 11:10, 12 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Stop being such knobs

At least those posts are sticking to the topic and avoiding gratuitous namecalling. Please try the same. Primebhoy As we've said before, as the main discussion thread for a specific film spoilers aren't quite the same in here. So it make sense not to read the posts of people who've seen the film if you haven't. Unless you're a Mod, in which case you're kind of stuffed unless we've made someone go see films they don't want to up front ... More

Posted by elab49 at 01:25, 12 January 2013 | Report This Post


Stop being such knobs

I'm getting really sick of reviews and ratings from people who haven't actually seen the film they are talking about, can you please just grow up and either watch the film or go and do something meaningful with your time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dsampson at 23:07, 11 January 2013 | Report This Post


Just back from cinema. Never seen audience cry so much. The person who gave this 2 stars should be guillotined! Vivè la Jackman ( and Hathaway ) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fatboycheese at 22:21, 11 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Miserables

Saw this on Sunday and really enjoyed it. I am a fan of the stage musical, so know all the songs, but the film breathed new life into it and actually put some of the lyrics into a context I hadn't originally picked up on (I'm a bit slow it seems...). Jackman is fantastic in the lead and lends the role a required physicality and drive that keeps each scene moving forward. Hathaway is, as has been touted, wonderful in her small part and really deserves the plaudits coming her way. I was a fan of ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Quint at 20:32, 11 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Les Miserables

Since its teaser trailer which featured a snippet of Anne Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream”, Tom Hooper’s much anticipated adaptation of the hit musical Les Misérables was already getting Oscar talk and as everyone know from yesterday, the film has been nominated for eight Academy Awards that include Best Picture, Best Actor for Hugh Jackman and Best Supporting Actress for Hathaway. After all the commotion, the film is finally released and you can see why the high praise it’s gettin... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 18:44, 11 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

You're complaining about spoilers to one of the best known stories in the world? Wow. By the way... Scrooge buys a turkey at the end of A Christmas Carol. ... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 11:30, 11 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE:

L: pearlbeyondprice I saw this last night at a preview showing and my advice to anybody who has seen the stage musical is this; Forget the stage show and appreciate the film for what it is. Film is a different genre and better displays the raw emotional content of the story in a far superior manner to the stage show. It allows us to glimpse at the soul destroying torment of the characters decision making process through a magnifying glass rather than a telescope and creates a far more emo... More

Posted by primebhoy at 11:26, 11 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Excitement!

L: BelfastBoy Talking of vibrato, Jackman's overuse of it on Bring Him Home is distracting to the point of being virtually unlistenable. eard Jackman's 'Bring Him Home' on the radio on Monday and have to agree (on audio alone). Sounded like a very emotionless vocal, a little too technical with no light and shade. Not really what you'd expect from one of the biggest tearjerker numbers in the show. He sings the entire song in his head/chest voice too which doesn't help with conveying... More

Posted by Marky_Mark at 08:34, 10 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Excitement!

L: Coyleone I really have no desire to see this even if the reviews are so good. sp; s like the worst thing that has ever happened in any artistic medium, ever! Could hit 100% on RT with 10,000 reviews and you’d still never tempt me anywhere near it.t=calibri] t=calibri]But then again musicals are the work of Satan as far as I’m concerned… with the exception of The Blues Brothers, Bugsy Malone and the Muppets of course.p; ... More

Posted by pete_traynor at 15:43, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


I saw this last night at a preview showing and my advice to anybody who has seen the stage musical is this; Forget the stage show and appreciate the film for what it is. Film is a different genre and better displays the raw emotional content of the story in a far superior manner to the stage show. It allows us to glimpse at the soul destroying torment of the characters decision making process through a magnifying glass rather than a telescope and creates a far more emotive response.For me, the o... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by pearlbeyondprice at 12:06, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


want to watch it

want to watch it ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by alf1e at 10:22, 09 January 2013 | Report This Post


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