Les Miserables - Movie Review


5 Stars

Having run continuously on Broadway for the past 28 years (longer than any in history), Alain Boublil and Claude Michel Schonberg's much-loved stage musical Les Misérables brings a well-seasoned audience frothing for an equally worthy screen adaptation.

Enter Tom Hooper fresh off his 2010 Oscar winning biopic The King's Speech, who, knowing he would need to do more than simply put the stage show on film to find an audience, teamed up with two-time Academy Award nominated screenwriter William Nicholson (Gladiator). Together, they not only capture the power and ambition of the stage experience that has always been driven by the music and songs, but simultaneously strengthen the plotlines and inject a new sense of realism and credibility into the timeless story of broken dreams and unrequited love set against the backdrop of post-revolutionary France. Of course, it never hurts to have on board the perfect storm of actors blessed with ready-made star power, gifted theatrical talent, and most importantly, golden voices capable of translating the play’s gigantic heart and soul to the silver screen.

And big it is. Near biblical in scope and legendary in significance, it comes from Victor Hugo’s sweeping tale of romance and redemption set in 19th century France, a country only a few years beyond its radical social and political upheaval that would have a lasting impact on the country and the world. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), having been imprisoned the last 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread, is given his freedom by jailer Javert (Russell Crowe). Javert reminds Valjean he’ll never outrun the mark of his crimes, and the animosity between the two will only grow more pronounced over the course of the film. But a twist of fate gives Valjean a chance to reboot his life.

Staying true to the stage production, the story is told completely in melody, through-sung with only a tiny handful of spoken lines. The musical’s original creative team was brought into the screenwriting process and asked to write entirely new lyrics to fill in the screenplay’s original narrative which even called for a new song (Suddenly). For those unfamiliar with the stage play’s sing-songy canter, it’ll take some getting used to, especially when he-men Jackman and Crowe are squared off in any of their numerous silver-backed confrontations. Fortunately however, both are well enough equipped in the vocal department to bring amazing life to Boublil and Schonberg’s words - Crowe’s deep baritone playing nicely against Jackman’s pitch-perfect tenor.

We pick up the story some eight years later as Valjean is a remade man, now the owner of a factory, and mayor of his town. When it is revealed that one of his unwed factory seamstresses, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is mother to a fatherless child, she’s thrown to the streets where she must sell her hair, teeth, and body to support her young child, Cosette. Hooper’s portrait of Fantine’s struggles in the grimy Paris streets is truly heartbreaking. And Hathaway’s deeply affecting rendition of the story’s signature I Dreamed a Dream is certainly the film’s crowning moment. Hooper’s risky choice to have all actors sing their parts live on set rather than lip-synch to a pre-recorded track pays off in a big way, most vividly demonstrated in Hathaway’s broken Fantine. Sadly, her character is long gone some 30 short minutes into the film’s 2-hour forty-five-minute runtime. Romantic-comedy, super-hero, action, and now musical. Any questions of Hathaway’s belonging in the ranks of film’s most diversely talented have been answered.

The story jumps forward again, this time with Fantine’s child, Cosette as a grown woman now played by Amanda Seyfried. The Revolution has yet to completely settle and a band of young students take to the streets defying French military oppressors. A young cast takes over, led by Eddie Redmayne as Marius, a smart young soldier who falls for Cosette’s beauty, despite the smitten torch carried for his affection from Eponine (Samantha Barks). The revolution swells as do the beautiful musical numbers performed by Seyfried, Redmayne, Barks and a core group of extras from the original stage musical. The songs take center stage and the film’s pace quickens as the story ends in a rousing crescendo of voice and emotion, sure to soften even the crustiest of old souls.

Framed by Hugo’s tried-and-true story, given heart by Boublil and Schonberg's beautiful lyrics and melodies, and now reinterpreted by Hooper’s burgeoning directorial flourish, Les Misérables now has a welcoming new home on the big screen, and likely a new audience as well.


Les Miserables - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements.
157 mins.
: Tom Hooper
: William Nicholson
Cast: Anne Hathaway; Russell Crowe; Hugh Jackman; Amanda Seyfried; Sacha Baron Cohen; Helena Bonham Carter
: Musical | Romance | Drama
Fight. Dream. Hope. Love.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I had a dream my life would be so different form this hell I'm living."
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date: December 25, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 22, 2013.

Synopsis: Les Misérables is the motion-picture adaptation of the beloved global stage sensation seen by more than 60 million people in 42 countries and in 21 languages around the globe and still breaking box-office records everywhere in its 27th year. Helmed by The King’s Speech’s Academy Award®-winning director, Tom Hooper, the Working Title/Cameron Mackintosh production stars Hugh Jackman, Oscar® winner Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, with Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption—a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. In December 2012, the world’s longest-running musical brings its power to the big screen in Tom Hooper’s sweeping and spectacular interpretation of Victor Hugo’s epic tale.


Les Miserables - Movie Review

Component Grades
Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars
4 stars
Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - March 22, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; English: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: A

Tom Hooper’s new film adaptation of the hit musical Les Misérables arrives on a 1080p crisp transfer that is loaded with wonderful detail and rich textures.  The production value is captured with grace by the transfer.  From the waves of shipyards to country hills, the many locales and sets of Hooper’s film are perfectly revealed here.  Some of the darker scenes feature more grain than others, but despite this minor hiccup, the colors and details are all excellent.  A whole lot of work went into the sets and costume design here and all of the little flourishes can be seen in exceptional detail.  The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack offers up excellent sound, with the sweeping, expansive score playing out around one.



  • Hooper makes his one-person commentary a pleasant and informative experience. His energy is high as he details some of the technical achievements of the film and the live singing.  While not a must-listen, the commentary is quite informative for fans of the musical.

Special Features:

There is not much to celebrate with this release as far as supplemental materials go. There is a brief look at the novel from which the film (and stage musical) was adapted, but the real highlight is an hour-long behind the scenes piece focusing on all the various aspects of the filmmaking. The bonus features on the Blu-ray set also include a DVD, an iTunes copy, and an Ultraviolet one as well.

  • 'Les Misérables': A Revolutionary Approach (63 min)
  • The Original Masterwork: Victor Hugo's 'Les Misérables' (11 min)