Director Tom Hooper and a full-throated cast led by Hugh Jackman as Victor Hugo’s ex-convict hero Jean Valjean bring the world’s longest-running stage musical, Les Misérables, to the screen with barnstorming gusto.
From the majestic opening shots of storm-lashed prisoners hauling a massive sailing ship into dock, Hooper reveals that he has conceived his film on a grand scale. But it’s when his camera gets close that the full extent of his daring becomes apparent – the actors are performing the show’s songs live, not lip-synching.
The pay-off is enormous, particularly in the story’s most intimate moments, as when Oscar-winning Anne Hathaway’s destitute seamstress Fantine sings ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ in one unbroken, SuBo-charged take.
Hathaway’s co-stars are equally committed. Jackman displays his Broadway pedigree in the lead, Russell Crowe’s gruffly gives his all as Valjean’s implacable enemy, vengeful police inspector Javert (his singing much better than you’ve heard), and young lovers Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne pour their hearts into their roles.
Excepting ripe comic relief from Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as grasping innkeepers Monsieur and Madame Thénardier, it’s all done with such sincerity that even non-fans of the show will find themselves overlooking the absurdity of the story and the banality of the music.
And by the time the story reaches its stirring climax during the Paris Rebellion of 1832, you’ll be ready rush to the barricades, too.
Released on DVD, Blu-ray & Limited Edition Blu-ray Digi-book by Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.