Les Miserables (12A)

Based on a novel by Victor Hugo
Directed by Tom Hooper
Score by Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Alain Boublil
On general release from 11th January 2013

Reviewed by Kev McCready

Adapting a musical is as parlous a process as adapting a book. True, you have a built in audience of devotees/trainspotters. Unlike a book, it has to have the dramatic momentum to go with the songs, plus you have the freedom to “open out” the action from the stage. Tres difficile, mes amis.

Like the play itself, there is little dialogue and lots of singing. Well, it is a musical. All the actors sing live, and they genuinely emote these rousing, moving, tender songs. Hugh Jackman is superb, as is Anne Hathaway in a brief, but pivotal cameo. Russell Crowe starts off painting his wagon like the late Lee Marvin, passes Pierce Brosnan in “Mama Mia”, and then settles into the saddle with the others.

Luckily, this The French Revolution, and “Les Miserables” has important philosophical themes of morality, loyalty, love, justice and faith. Director Tom Hooper takes a dynamic approach to this, keeping the camera tight for the songs (much as he did for “The King’s Speech”), opening it out to show the massive sets and swooping through CGI landscapes.

If the film has any tonal difficulties, they come from the source material. There is plenty of blood, rain, mud and shite for us to wade through, but the cartoon prostitutes that entice Hathaway into a life of vice are just too much. Similarly, Sasha Baron-Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the wily Thenadiers take a “let them eat cheese” approach to their performances.

Ultimately, as a treatise about the politics of revolution, it’s a badly mixed Molotov. As a big canvas story with verve and energy, it adapts beautifully

Read Adam Ford's review of Les Miserables

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