It’s been a while since I have watched a musical, and even longer since I saw one at the cinema (Mamma Mia! I think), which is strange because I do quite like them. Although I tend to enjoy them for the happiness, dancing and smiles which emanate, so Les Misérables was going to be an interesting watch. It was a very long ride, feeling its length more than other comparable movies, but an enjoyable one all the same.
My entire knowledge of the story of Les Mis comes from the TV show Glee as I’ve never read the book or seen it on the stage, so I knew very little going in other than Jean Valjean was a free captive who finds a new lease of life in the taking care of a young child. But that is the essence of the film, with only Hugh Jackman’s Valjean and Russell Crowe’s Inspector Javert being a continuous part of the narrative from beginning to end. There is a real difference between the two, and although both are commanding screen presences Jackman shines when it comes to singing whereas Crowe often scrapes through.
There are no real duds in the cast, as they each are given their time to shine before we move on to someone else. Anne Hathaway has been receiving all sorts of nominations for her portrayal of Fantine, the downtrodden mother doing what she can to make money for her child. Rightly so, as she is fantastic in both acting and singing, her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” being a highlight of, working much better on film than it did when I listened to the audio alone beforehand.
Tom Hooper’s direction, as has been pointed out by others, makes impressive use of both large-scale spectacle and close-ups to bring a new element to a musical where the audience will have their frame set for the entire piece. There are some impressive shots early on with the opening dockyard scene and Jackman’s hillside church number, and again towards the barricades at the end.
But it isn’t all sadness and misery, as Helena Bonham-Carter and Sacha Baron-Cohen (who I normally dislike) add some fun with their drunken innkeepers. And there are some riveting moments of action as the backdrop of the revolutionary France comes into being in the final third, a highlight of the latter part which does have a tendency to go on and on.
A fantastic movie with great performances from the ensemble cast. Definitely worth seeing on the big screen to appreciate both its majesty and tender moments, although it could definitely with a little chopping down in length.
Director: Tom Hooper
Writers: William Nicholson, Alain Boubil, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Herbert Kretzmer; based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne
Les Misérables is showing at the DCA until the 31st of January.