The scene is set during the French Restoration at the beginning of the 19th century. Jean Valjean, a galley slave who was sent to prison for stealing food, is now released after serving ... See full summary »
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The lives of numerous people over the course of 20 years in 19th century France, weaved together by the story of an ex-convict named Jean Valjean on the run from an obsessive police inspector, who pursues him for only a minor offense.
After stealing a loaf a bread to feed a starving family, Jean Valjean is sentenced to ten years at hard labor as a galley slave. There he is taught to read and write by another prisoner and meets Javert, an obsessive policeman who was himself born to convict parents aboard a prison ship. After his release, Valjean is treated as a pariah but finally finds shelter in the home of a kindly bishop. Valjean repays the clergyman's generosity by stealing his silver plate. He is apprehended by the authorities and returned to the bishop but is amazed when the kindly old priest tells them that the valuable plates were a gift. This becomes a transforming experience for the ex-convict, who establishes himself under an assumed name in a small country village as factory manager and ultimately mayor. Unfortunately the newly-promoted Javert is assigned there as chief inspector. Although he doesn't recognize his old nemesis at first, the two clash over Javert's overzealous prosecution of the letter of ... Written by
This is my favorite version of this story, and Michael Rennie is wonderful as Jean Valjean. Robert Newton is also at his crusty best as Javert, his relentless pursuer. I have never seen Rennie give a bad performance and this movie was one of his best, made right as his film career in the US was taking off. The supporting cast is also excellent, and the conflict that arises within Valjean as his feelings of fatherly love for Cosette become romantic feelings that he cannot act upon add to the tension of the film and make for a very complex performance from a gifted actor.
I heartily recommend this movie to anyone, and if you are a fan of Michael Rennie and/or of Robert Newton, you won't be disappointed in either of them. ENJOY!!
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