Written by: William Nicholson
Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh
Runtime: 158 minutes
A man imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing a piece of bread – that is Jean Valjean. Upon being given parole, he tries to live a normal life, but his papers indicating that he was a convict prevents him from doing so. He has had enough. Not even the eager prison guard Javert can stop him. He has changed his identity and has been the owner of a factory.
There, a single mother in the name of Fantine is fired because of the supposedly morally corrupt past she had. Forced to support her daughter Cosette who is currently in the hands of the abusive couple, the Thenardiers, she commits herself to prostitution. An illness restricts her from living any longer, but due to Valjean’s intervention, he promises her that he will look for Cosette, and that he will find her.
Nine years later, an uprising spearheaded by the students led by Marius and Enjolras is starting to heat up. Eponine, the Thenardiers’ daughter, is secretly in love to Marius, but he ignores any indications of her affection due to his instant attraction with the grown up Cosette. As Marius’s courtship to Cosette ensues, the revolution officially begins, initiating a fight between the soldiers and the students. Pushed to the barricades as their last place of defence, the students continue to fight for freedom, to no avail.
As all of these happen, Javert still relentlessly hunts down Jean Valjean.
I think everyone can agree that we have all encountered the source material before we have seen this film – either the stage play or the novel. Either way, there is an enormous amount of pressure on the filmmakers to make this film stand out. Thankfully, the film does not disappoint. Tom Hooper, fresh from his last outing The King’s Speech, provides another sweeping but very intimate tale of epic proportions.
No, I will not talk about his choices to make the film a sing-through musical, or to record the singing of the actors live, but those are very noteworthy achievements. But I just want to recognize the courage that he has put in to make the film the way that it is – full of courage, skill, and vision. There is always visceral quality in the clarity that we see. Each scene is manoeuvred with utmost control and confidence that seems so delicate and overpowering at the same time. We get this feeling of amazement in how he projects the film; it is sensitive as it is powerful. Basically, this film is a confirmation of what I thought after seeing The King’s Speech: Tom Hooper is no one-hit director; he is going to stay.
Eloquence is the first thing to be noticed in the film’s screenplay. The film maximizes the miserable from the source material without making it too much of an unsettling experience. Yes, there are really those moments when the reaction could really be upsetting, but those moments are strategically well-placed and done with good taste and noticeable heart.
The cinematography has aroused too many words of disapproval, but let me say this: I absolutely loved it. Framing each scene with a complete knowledge of the know-how of the technique does make a very pleasing watch even if it does push the envelope of what one might expect in a film like this. The same is with the canny editing, strongly anchoring the movement of the story so well. The music is obviously the best that it can be, filling each scene with the strong register of notes and tones. Also worth noticing is the intricacy present in the impeccable craftsmanship of the costume design, production design, and the makeup work.
But with an epic film like this, it must be noticed that the film has one of the strongest ensemble that I have seen for quite some time.
Hugh Jackman’s unnerving metamorphosis from a convict to a runaway is hugely impressive, completely vanishing inside a role that demands every bit of physical and emotional commitment. Russell Crowe also scores well as the fervent Javert, providing the stiffness and equalled passion in his role. Anne Hathaway is devastating as Fantine, make the most of her brief screen time with a performance the completely surrenders any sense of glamour by completely baring her soul that reaches its peak with his rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” where every bit of despair and hopelessness bleeds in her soul.
Eddie Redmayne take full advantage of his role by giving a completely honest portrayal of the real meaning of what is role is: slightly reckless, but totally devoted. Samantha Barks is particularly affecting as unreciprocated lover of Marius, using every bit of subtle expression to point out her aspirations, her dreams, and her wishes. Amanda Seyfried capably drives her good-natured character with an understandable innocence and purity. Aaron Tveit is particularly surprising as Enjolras, shaping his character with complete flare for freedom and the distinctive panache that makes him especially fit for his role. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter cap this ensemble with their steely playfulness surfacing above the sly evilness in their characters.
This is a film that finds every bit of emotion in the story, providing us with a very humane assessment of this legendary story. By the time we reach the last frame of the film, there is a feeling of confirmation that what we had just seen is a really great film. The feeling is inexplicable. It left me speechless. The beauty cannot be ignored. It is an emotional powerhouse, it is a heart-wrenching experience, and it is a life-affirming movie.
For this, the film gets:
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