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Jean Valjean, known as Prisoner 24601, is released from prison and breaks parole to create a new life for himself while evading the grip of the persistent Inspector Javert. Set in post-revolutionary France, the story reaches resolution against the background of the June Rebellion.Written by
Initially for his opening introductory scene, Hugh Jackman was going to be shirtless when he's seen as a prisoner in the storm hauling a ship into port. But Jackman thought that this was meant to be a serious dramatic performance and showing off his abs the first thing in the movie would detract from that and the audience would not take him seriously. So he went and told director Tom Hooper, "If you have me with my shirt off, people are going to say, 'You were just doing what Jackman demanded in his contract.'" Hooper replied, "I don't think we need to do it without your shirt" and in the finished film Jackman keep his shirt on though his costume is torn in several places revealing hints of his muscular physique underneath. Several promotional stills and camera tests of Jackman's original costume were later released online. They indeed show Jackman in an open jacket with deeply shredded six packs abs but at Jackman's request the costume was never used for filming. See more »
During "The Robbery", Thernardier speaks to Javert and grows nearer and nearer to his face. The shot changes, however, and shows Javert at a different angle, moving closer to Thernardier. See more »
Look down, look down, don't look them in the eye.
Look down, look down, you're here until you die.
See more »
The film opens without any opening credits. The title of the film is stated just before the closing credits. See more »
Having never seen the stage version of Les Miserables and having read limited reviews of the film, I honestly didn't know what to expect from Tom Hooper's Les Miserables. After experiencing the film earlier today, I can say it was a tremendous experience.
I felt the first thirty minutes or so were the strongest of the entire film, plunging us into the despair and conflicts of various characters with adroit narrative thrust so that not a moment feels wasted or redundant. Two of the three (in my opinion) gut-wrenching musical numbers come in this section- Anne Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream" (which, if I recall correctly, was filmed largely in a single take) and Hugh Jackman's "Who Am I?". I can only speculate but, compared to the stage version, being able to take in every facial nuance in the film version seems to make the moments of crescendo and soaring strings pack so much more of an emotional punch. Both Hathaway and Jackman also deliver top-notch performances, and it's hard to imagine anyone else fitting the role of Valjean as well as Jackman.
Thematically, the film also shines in this section. Here we are introduced to the major theme of forgiveness for the first time, through Fantine we tap into maternal bonds as well as disillusionment, and Valjean's struggles explore the conflict between not only public and private selves but also reconciling our own personal interests with what is morally correct.
It seemed curious to me that the bleakest moments of the film (at least for me) came at the beginning, which made it impossible for the film to regain that same sense of gravitas as the story progressed. While the remainder of the film was certainly entertaining, it felt both less emotionally involving and less taut than the beginning.
Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen provided some much appreciated comic relief, but their antics seemed oddly out of place in this film at times, and often left me feeling as though I were watching Sweeney Todd again. Russell Crowe, while certainly no vocal powerhouse, did a fine job as Javert, although I found his final number to be oddly anti-climactic. The younger actors gave fine performances as well, with Samantha Barks demonstrating the most potential and Eddie Redmayne surprisingly delivering the final gut-wrenching number, "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." The thematic exploration of the rise and fall of idealism makes this sequence especially poignant.
Artistically, Les Miserables is a feast. The production design is top-notch, with meticulously crafted sets and props. Makeup and costumes are definitely noteworthy as well. Many of the shots of Paris have an artificially beautiful aesthetic to them, and every crane shot adds a sense of beauty and scope to the piece. Editorially, the film makes takes advantage of cuts to characters in different locations or concurrent events which would not have been possible in the stage version of Les Mis.
One minor complaint from a filmmaking perspective was cinematographer Danny Cohen's method of framing characters. Conventional cinematography typically frames actors so that their faces are demarcating either the left or right third of the screen, with the camera positioned so that their subjects are turned towards the remaining two thirds of the screen. In Les Miserables (though thankfully not to the same extent as in The King's Speech), a few times the characters are positioned so that they are facing the other direction- the edge of the screen. Though I imagine the filmmakers were attempting to add visual flourish to the film, I found this technique oddly jarring, drawing me out of the film and making me conscious I was watching a movie.
The film does regain some levity in its rousing finale, which ties the film together in plot, theme, and song. Despite the minor issues I had with the film, I found it to be a hard-hitting and rousing work of art. I could probably sum it up best by noting that this is the first movie I've been to where even old men were wiping their teary eyes by the time the credits rolled.
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