Les Misérables opened in London 27 years ago. An all-time great musical that will bring you on a roller coaster of emotions, from hope to despair and from laughter to tears. Finally you don’t have to save all of this for the theatre, because finally Les Misérables has come to the big screen. We no longer have to dream the dream.
Sir Cameron Mackintosh is a successful British theatrical producer and has worked on and produced some of the biggest shows, with The Phantom of the Opera and Cats on his list of great works. Now he has helped bring Les Misérables to life by joining forces with director Tom Hooper. It is one of the most ambitious British films of all time and is superbly directed. Whilst making the film Hooper and Mackintosh decided that they did not want the cast to mime and lip-sync the songs on a pre-recorded soundtrack. They decided to make the cast sing live on camera. Not only does this have an engaging and fresh effect but it helps the audience feel the raw emotion of the songs.
The film begins with prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) performing his duties as a slave in prison. He stole a loaf of bread to feed his sisters starving child, he is told he has his freedom, but he will never really be free, he is sent away from the prison on parole by Javert (Russell Crowe). Javert believes that a criminal can never reform and informs Jean Valjean that he will be on parole for the rest of his life. Valjean is a devastated man; he is turned away from places to stay and places to work. Valjean ends up at a church and is taken in, however he steals from the bishop and is taken back to the church by guards. Instead of sending Valjean away the bishop pretends he gave the silver to Valjean and Valjean is let go. The Bishop tells Valjean he owes his soul to god and that he must be a better man.
Valjean reforms his life and becomes a factory owner and a mayor of a French town. This is where we meet Fantine (Anne Hathaway) she works at the factory that Valjean owns, but falls on hard times when she loses her job and turns to prostitution. Emotionally she sells her hair and teeth, and then her body all to make money for her little girl Cosette who is in care of two inn keepers the Thenardiers. Valjean is constantly pursued throughout the film by the implacable Javert, and when Fantine dies, Valjean takes Cosette into his care, and they both become the hunted. They eventually find a place to stay and hide and Cosette grows into a young woman played by Amanda Seyfried. When Cosette falls in love with a revolutionary student called Marius (Eddie Redmayne) Valjean realises he must now protect Marius during the barricade, so that Cosette will eventually be able to marry the love of her life.
The end of the film is breath-taking, it involves the final tableau of the cast at the barricade, singing their hearts out to ‘Do you hear the people sing’ and is a great ending to the story of Les Misérables providing the audience with a final emotion of hope and faith.
The film not only provides a brilliant soundtrack but throughout the miserable and often depressing story line there is comic relief provided by the Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen & Helena Bonham Carter) both of these dishonest innkeepers play their role as the carers of young Cosette whom they mistreat. Their daughter is Eponine (Samantha Barks) who also falls in love with Marius and provides a heartbreaking performance.
There are many things going on throughout the film, all of them as intense as each other. Personal highlights include Eddie Redmayne’s rendition of ‘Empty Chairs and Empty Tables’ which is simply beautiful and Anne Hathaways moving and emotional version of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ both performances are so raw and hold so much power. Hugh Jackman throughout the film remains superb; his acting is so powerful and holds so much integrity that he is a worthy winner of Best Actor at the Academy Awards.
The film will leave you emotional and if you haven’t seen the theatre show I can guarantee that you will want to after seeing this. If you have already seen the show then this is a must, not only will you know the soundtrack but you will be able to experience the show brought to life in different ways.