I have to confess that I have never read the book, seen the musical or seen any other film of Les Miserables. This can sometimes be a barrier to understanding an adaptation of a huge and complex work of literature where the story is inevitably condensed and not so clear to those not already familiar with it. This is not the case with this excellent film, which was easy to follow and quite a joy to watch.
The film follows the travails of Jean Valjean, unjustly imprisoned for too many years, and his attempts to be a good man following his departure form prison. All the way he is dogged by Javert, a malicious martinet who was once his jailor, and refuses to allow Valjean to live an honest life. It's a rich and complex tale, with an interesting study of the difference between morality and legality at it's heart. It's nicely directed and stars Anthony Perkins in the crucial role of Javert. He brings out the nit picking stickler for the rules, and his consequent struggle with the morality of his actions very nicely. Richard Jordan as Valjean is engaging and likeable, but didn't make as much of an impression on me. There's a slew of well known thesps scattered through the rest of the cast, who bring life and character to their roles. It's one of those big budget costume dramas that used to be done so well, with an epic feel, complex characters and a memorable ending. Five stars for a moving and stirring film.