A cast of A-list actors, a stunning set, passionate lyrical pieces, danger, love, political injustice, a shirtless Hugh Jackman and nineteenth century France.
All of this can be found in the recently released cinematic version of the longest running musical ever,“Les Misérables.” The movie, directed by Tom Hooper features a history making score and unforgettable performances by some of Hollywood’s best talent.
The film is notable for the stellar musical performances of much of the cast, including Anne Hathaway’s heart rending version of Cosette’s classic ballad, “I Dreamed a Dream,” yet also for the personal themes and passionate emotional messages it is able to so eloquently convey.
Hugh Jackman stars as escaped convict Jean Valjean, on the run from Russell Crowe’s rendering of the pitiless Inspector Javert.
“Les Miserables” traces the journey of Valjean in his search for redemption, escape and freedom from his past against the political history of revolutionary France.
The individual dramas of the movie are compelling enough in their own right, and the backdrop of the crumbling oligarchy of the late 1800s adds only another dimension to the musical. The film “Les Mis” is able to convey with an unusual depth of passion the stories of the disenfranchised poor, the horrors of the human condition and the power of love in the face of all odds.
The performance of Anne Hathaway and her relationship and dedication to her child Fantine, (played by Isabelle Allen and later Amanda Seyfried) set the stage for a film that will most inevitably tugs at the heart strings of viewers.
As convict Jean Valjean outruns the grasps of Javert, Hugh Jackman is able to richly convey the lessons of the very Christ-like virtues of kindness and good works taught to him by a sympathetic priest in his adoption of Fantine, the orphaned daughter of Cosette.
The plight of worker-turned nightwalker Cosette, and the antagonistic relationship between Javert and Valjean are only the tip of the iceberg in the examples of corruption and injustice that serves as much of the conflict of “Les Mis.”
The battles between good and evil, power and grace, love and duty-fueled hatred resonate deeply with my moral and religious sentiments. The film does an excellent job of making clear the effects of evil on a very human and corrupt world.
Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter offer much needed comic relief as the corrupt hired caregivers of young Cosette. Their role also provides an opportunity for Valjean to display his passion for the disenfranchised as he willingly pays an exorbitant price to rescue Cosette from their grips.
The cinematic rendering of Victor Hugo’s tale of the movement against the tyrannical French system of oppression makes for dramatic, violent and heartbreaking storytelling, rife with relevant crystalline metaphors regarding the detrimental system of power in the hands of few and the consequences of unforgiving bureaucratic “justice.”
The strength of interpersonal sacrifice and relationships are never lost within the scope of the story, and this is what made the movie magical for me.
Actor Eddie Redmayne plays Marius, a passionate young revolutionary yet most brightly shines in his role as lover of Cosette, as the young couple serves as an island of hope and purity amidst the chaos of the larger tale.
As Tom Hooper’s interpretation of Victor Hugo’s work comes to a close, the epic demonstration of the power of the heart is paid homage in the grandiose achievements and losses of the revolution.
It is the work of the individual and titular characters however that gives the film true depth, as the unifying relationships between families, friends and lovers speak to the ultimate power of community.
Overall, “Les Misérables” is a magnificent piece of cinematography playing great justice to the raw talent of many esteemed entertainers and is well worth the two and a half hour watch.
The personal journey of Jean Valjean from the life of hardened criminal to humble father and servant of good works alone justifies the watching. Students may find themselves resonating with many of the underlying and overarching themes of the work and but perhaps also identifying with the examples of love, reconciliation, service and sacrifice that are actually not all that unusual to EMU tradition.
-Rehana Franklin, Style Editor