Director: Tom Hooper
Writer: William Nicholson, Herbert Kretzmer
Based on: Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg‘s musical which is in turn based on Victor Hugo‘s novel
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, Daniel Huttlestone, Isabelle Allen, Colm Wilkinson
Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) has just been released on parole after years in the galleys for stealing some bread. Police inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) doesn’t really want to see him go as he doesn’t trust in his rehabilitation. And he almost seems to be right – as Valjean takes the frist chance he gets to steal from a priest (Colm Wilkinson). But when said priest shows him mercy, Valjean takes the chance to build a life for himself, though skipping parole. Years later, he is a successful factory owner and mayor, when Javert comes to his town. At the same time, Valejan gets drawn into the life of one of his factory employees, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and her little daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen/Amanda Seyfried) and decides to help her.
Les Misérables is pretty epic, as can only be expected from a musical based on a Hugo novel. And while the cast mostly does very well with the epicness, neither Tom Hooper nor cinematographer Danny Cohen were up for the task.
I didn’t know the musical, so I was pretty neutral about the entire film before. But I went into it thinking that I would have the biggest problem with Russell Crowe and his singing. To my surprise, this was far from the case. I mean, Crowe is certainly not the world’s greatest singer, but he doesn’t suck that hard (he also has the best songs of the musical, apart from the one little Cosette sings, so that helps).
What did suck hard, though, was the cinematography. The editing and the direction weren’t great, either, but the cinematography really took the cake. Wonky camera angles, people constantly almost falling out of the frame, the camera adjusting all the time (because it’s off not only position, but also focus – there is one scene where Eddie Redmayne’s in profile and the thing that’s sharp is his ear. Say what?)… it was annoying as hell.
The cast was mostly excellent. I would have expected nothing less from Hugh Jackman. Anne Hathaway proved once more that she can do anything at all and be great at it. Helena Bonham-Carter was great. Samantha Barks is somebody to look out for. But it was especially Isabelle Allen who blew me away. Amazingly talented little singer. But there were weak spots, too: Sacha Baron Cohen was a little too cartoonish for my taste. I don’t know if the songs sung by Amanda Seyfried were supposed to sound that squeaky or if she just struggled with the part, but it sounded awful (and she can actually sing very well, usually).
Put altogether the story was intriguing and the music – while still not my favorite musical – was good, but the film was too long (so long, in fact, that I started drafting a romantic backstory for Javert and Valjean – that actually makes a surprising amount of sense – even though I’m not much of a slasher usually, just to pass some time), the sets looked pretty cheap (trying for Moulin Rouge-y surreality and failing epicly) and it should have generally been much better than it was. Despite that, it was an entertaining film.
Summarising: It’s still watchable.