Friday, 22 February 2013

Les Miserables (2012)


Jean Valjean: To love another person is to see the face of God. 

One of my most anticipated reviews this year. This film is a musical, BASED on a musical; the West End musical in London to be exact. Many people when they went into the movies to watch 'Les Mis' (abrv) they were disappointed to find out that the film was filled with music from beginning to end. Well, let's make one thing clear, yet again...this film is BASED on the MUSICAL, not the classical novel by Victor Hugo. 

So, since we got this cleared out let's start with revewing the actual film. It was my great pleasure to go and see this film, particularly because for me this genre represents a very big part of who I am and I simply adore musicals. Especially the ones who stay true to the original stage musicals. Such is 'Les Miserables'.

The story line follows prisoner-on-parole, 24601, Jean Valjean, as he runs from the ruthless Inspector Javert on a journey beyond the barricades, at the center of the June Rebellion. Meanwhile, the life of a working class girl with a child is at turning point as she turns to prostitution to pay money to the evil innkeeper and his wife who look after her child, Cosette. Valjean promises to take care of the child, something which eventually leads to a love triangle between Cosette, Marius who is a student of the rebellion, and Eponine, a girl of the streets. The people sing of their anger and Enjolras leads the students to fight upon the barricades.(

The story itself is touching, to say the least.Personally it has always touched me in so many levels, especially now, during the times of financial adversity I think the story-line applies to most people out there. 

Let's start from director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech, The Damned United, John Adams). He is not your average English wannabe director-bloke who just happened to graduate from a film school. Hooper time and time again proved to be a master of narrative drama. This time round, he went far beyond his wildest expectations in tackling one of the greatest musicals ever to have been written. His persistence only in allowing his actors to perform musically without limitations, is proof of the freedoms he possesses as a person. His amazing gift to guide his actors and let them free to create through their musical talent was indeed a great risk he was willing to take. But it did payoff in retrospect, for his efforts did not go in vain. 

'Les Mis' is heralded to be one of this year's finest accomplishments. Not so much for its variety in its genre, but because they managed to do the unimaginable. To be able to transfer a stage musical play (i am highlighting the musical part as this is the most vital thing here) into film and still be able to move and touch so many people, is something extraordinary. If someone had told me this even when they tried to film 'The Phantom of the Opera' (another iconic musical stage play), I would have said, impossible. But indeed Hooper succeed. His cinematography, his costume and production design was so flawless at hand, so precise and well executed, especially when it came down to details, that anyone cannot but applaud him in awe. Outstanding piece of filmmaking and one of this year's best, in my opinion. 

But none of this would not have been made possible if it wasn't for the casting. What an amazing cast. Of course, my only tiny hiccup would be in the choice of Russell Crowe (Gladiator, The Insider, L.A. Confidential,A Beautiful Mind), who portrayed the role of Inspector Jarvet. Not because he did not the part physically, but indeed I would not be the first not to extol his musical skills. Albeit the fact that Crowe had extensive training and was associated in the past with music, he did not convince. I shall not be cruel enough to say his efforts were totally wasted, but he was the weakest link amongst the rest of the cast.

Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway,Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Amanda Seyfriend, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit and Samantha Barks on the other hand...would it be too awful of me just to say...WOW, what a brilliant choice, what an amazing chemistry out of everyone in this cast, what a superb performance. I was completely taken aback. 

Hugh Jackman (The Prestige, X-Men, Australia), who played the lead role of Jean Valjean gave an unbelievably extraordinary performance. The stamina,the passion and the depth he managed to give to Jean Valjean was something beyond my expectations. He took this role bare-handed and made it his own, he made sure he gave him the proper poise and the ability to express the layers of this character. Glorious acting,outstanding singing and performing. 

Alongside him, the little blooming flower of Hollywood, Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prad, Brokeback Mountain, One Day, Becoming JaneThe Princess Diaries, The Dark Knight Rises). We were proven in the past, that no matter how big or small a role is, as long as you manage to grasp it and make any viewer empathize so much with to the point of hysteria or tears, then you have succeed beyond any actor's dream. Hathaway did exactly that. Her close-up on her devastating performance of 'I dreamed a dream' was exactly what no actor managed to achieve so far on the musical stage; show her absolute despair and her drifting into oblivion. Hooper made sure, he let Hathaway free enough to not only become one with the role of Fantine, but also dissect her every tear, her every word, her every action.It would be a great omission on my part not to mention that for her scene in 'I dreamed a dream' was accomplished all in one take, under live recording. Spellbinding performance! 

Of course, the gem of this film is the collaboration of everyone who sung, danced and performed in this film. Having a functionable ensemble with chemistry and passion, is a key role in such films.Hooper was not a fool, and he gathered a wonderful ensemble of actors to undertake such heavy challenge and re-create the backdrop of French revolution on screen through entirely (almost) musical action. 

For those who are not keen on the musical genre, and have not been in much contact with how and what a musical is, this film should be avoided. For those who are interested in musicals, both filmic or theatrical ones, this film is just for you. A brilliant treat for the eyes and the ears equally. The Academy made sure to include it to the Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress, among other 5 nominations for Best Costume, Production Design, Sound, Music and Make-up. 

A delight for anyone also who adores the story, or the musical itself. The music will take you away, and the ethical messages will spring flares of emotions so high that will be thinking about them long after the end credits roll. 

Hope you enjoy this film as much as I did, hence my great anticipation to see even the actual musical on stage. 

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