168 of 191 people found the following review helpful
The best film I've ever seen
, 11 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Les Misérables [DVD]  (DVD)
... and probably ever will see.**SPOILERS**.
I still can't get over how brilliant this film was; it's certainly the best adaptation of Victor Hugo's epic novel that will ever be made in our life time. There's all the depth of the musical with the added bonus of material from the book, making it the most loyal adaptation there has ever been.
Key elements of the film that went well were: Hugh Jackman's Valjean - although not vocally better than Alfie Boe, Jackman showed the journey of Valjean from convict to loving father with an indescribable ease that was just wonderful. Additionally, the barricade scenes were fantastic and provoked many tears throughout the cinema - look out for the West End's Fra Fee (Courfeyrac),Killian Donneley (Comberferre) and Alastair Brammer (Jean Prouvaire) in particular. Fee and Donneley's reaction to Gavroche's death was absolutely heartbreaking and I was on the brink of tears until Hadley Fraser (the Army Guard leader), also from the West End, appeared on screen - he really made it seem like the National Guard were regretful for what they were having to do, which I've never seen before. Another stage actor who was fantastic was Samantha Barks as Eponine, having had a lot of experience with the character she really brought something new to the role and made the audience feel her pain, but with a hint at the insanity described by Hugo. I was particularly pleased that Hooper made her get shot saving Marius as Hugo intended it, as opposed to just being hit whilst climbing the barricade. Anne Hathaway was absolutely fantastic; I've never seen 'I dreamed a dream' acted so well and effectively before and I truly believe Hathaway actually became Fantine for those 5 minutes. Her death, in which she hallucinates about Cosette, was also absolutely heartbreaking and the best interpretation I've ever witnessed. Eddie Redmayne's 'Empty Chairs at Empty Tables' was beyond description, the pain in his face looked so real, and the audience could feel such a connection with the Barricade boys through the film which I think made this scene work even better. The epilogue also absolutely floored me, and I have to admit I couldn't see through tears for half of it, but it was so beautiful and the 'Do you hear the people sing' reprise so uplifting. Ironically, there was a lot of laughter in the final scenes as literally the whole cinema was in floods and so began to laugh at it.
Something I've never experienced in a cinema before is applause after a film - at least I hadn't until tonight. The film was just so brilliant we couldn't really help it.
I adored that Francis Rufelle (the original Eponine) came back as a prostitute in this adaptation, but what stood out for me more was Colm Wilkinson's coming full circle from being the original Valjean to playing the Bishop here. Unlike the stage show, the Bishop's ghost appears with Fantine at Valjean's death and it was just so perfect I couldn't stop the tears from flowing - it also emphasised Valjean's rising from a resentful convict to a loving, honorable man.
Unlike many of the critics, I was also a fan of Russel Crowe's Javert. From reviews I went into the film expecting to hate him, but he fully captured the character of Javert in a completely different way to any actor before him - and the emotion in his eyes was just ridiculous!! I was particularly glad Hooper thought to include the Notre Dame and Palaice de Justice on either side of the screen for Javert's suicide, just as is described in the book, as it emphasises the characters struggle with morality and the law.
I cannot recommend this film enough and I think I ran out of superlatives to describe it a long time ago. However, if you are expecting to see a carbon copy of the stage musical on screen, then this is something it's not. But this film takes the good bits from the musical and adds elements that wouldn't make sense on stage to film to allow more scope and involvement of the audience. It's just fantastic and I doubt if I will ever see a better film. Now all we have to hope for is the extended cut on DVD.
**UPDATE** having received this DVD after pre-ordering it from Amazon I was incredibly disappointed to see that there were no special features on this version. While it is still being sold at Sainsbury's for I believe about £7 WITH another disk of special features I would strongly recommend going there to buy this DVD rather than paying £2 more to buy just the film.
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