|Do you hear the people sing?|
Tom Hooper must be grinning from ear to ear right now. Only a year after the spellbinding success of The King's Speech, he goes and directs Les Misérables and just like last year, it has Oscar nominations and widespread praise lavished upon it. Just how does the man do it? Well, the answer is with a stellar cast and some of the most impressive set and costume design ever seen in film.
To the uninitiated, Les Mis, as it's known amongst its fans, is a smash hit musical renowned for being the longest running musical in the West End, having been shown for over twenty-five years. It tells a tale of heartbreak, love and liberty set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. A prisoner named Jean Valjean breaks parole and goes on to live life as an honest man whilst being pursued by the tenacious Inspector Javert. To say anymore would be to remove the emotional impact of the film's best scenes, which I'm certain those in the know are privy to. With its undying popularity, Hooper chose a guaranteed hit movie, but a movie with which he had to tread carefully, lest he offend the devoted fans of the stage show. Luckily for him, he has done no such thing.
|And I'm Javert, do not forget my name!|
Valjean's nemesis, Inspector Javert, is played by Russell Crowe. His lack of professional experience with singing is evident from the get-go, as his voice strains to reach the higher notes. Yet, the way in which he portrays the character more than makes up for this, as the dogged tenacity of Javert is evident through Crowe's excellent performance. As for the rest of the cast, each of them have their moments to shine. The dastardly innkeepers, Monsieur et Madame Thénadier are played with just the right amount of Cockney charm from Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, although some of the humour from the pair is lost in the transfer from stage to screen. Cosette, both young and old played by Isabelle Allen and Amanda Seyfried respectively, shines in her scenes, although Seyfried is somewhat overshadowed by the mindblowing Samantha Barks as Éponine. As she sits in the rain sobbing during On My Own, the brilliance of Hooper's casting is wholly apparent. Aaron Tveit's Enjolras brings a lot of bravado to the character as he leads the student revolution, and Eddie Redmayne's Marius does not put a foot wrong in any of his scenes.
|I dreamed a dream in time gone by...|
It would be ill-fitting to not talk about the stellar set and costume design. From the opening scene of Valjean and the chain gang pulling in a beached ship to harbor to the bombast and drama of the shootout at the barricade, Hooper's film delivers spectacle that the stage show simple could not provide. The costume and makeup likewise heighten the drama, be it Javert's pristine military outfit or the haggard and rugged Valjean during the chain gang scene.
|Look down, look down, don't look him in the eye.|
Final Verdict: On the whole, Hooper has once again struck gold. He has put together a cast who all deliver grade-A performances and hold their own musically, and put them into a grandiose world full of drama and spectacle. You'll cry, you'll laugh, you'll smile, you'll just want to give Anne Hathaway a hug and tell her it'll all be okay. Les Misérables is certainly a emotional rollercoaster of a film, yet it's one you should definitely experience. Vive La France!