Film review: Les Miserables (5 out of 5 stars)

Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables.
Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables.

Just occasionally a film comes round that sets a new bench-mark. From now on all film musicals will be judged in relation to Les Miserables.

Director Tom Hooper’s previous work of The King’s Speech and The Damned United were excellent and, in the case of the former, obviously picked up a bunch of awards.

Les Mis has already picked some trophies in the Golden Globes and expect a few more when the Oscars are handed out next month.

One of the film’s greatest strengths is the decision to have the cast sing as the cameras are rolling, rather than miming and dubbing the sound later.

This allows the actors to really get into the lyrics and to express their emotions and forget all aspects of linking up with a soundtrack.

It also means Hooper can get in close during the solos - and he certainly does get close.

Viewing the movie on the IMAX screen you could see every single facial hair and wrinkle on the actors’ face.

Les Miserables is set in post-Revolutionary France with much of the population suffering harsh conditions, struggling to find enough to eat.

At the start of the movie we meet Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a man imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread.

He is set free but breaks parole in an attempt to create a new life, only to be relentlessly pursued by policeman Javert (Russell Crowe).

Years later Valjean agrees to care for a factory worker’s daughter, setting off a chain of events.

Since singing takes up more than 90 per cent of the action this aspect was always going to be under scrutiny.

Thankfully, the casting team came up trumps and while some voices aren’t as strong as others, overall the songs are belted out with a believeable passion.

Jackman’s early theatrical background meant he was able to adapt and take on the tough singing demands, but Crowe’s performance is perhaps the biggest surprise.

His acting was always going to be first class but he belts out a tune quite well.

However, the top musical moments come from the women, Anne Hathaway Amanda Seyfried and lesser-known Samantha Barks.

The film is long - 157 minutes - but to be honest, the intensity of the drama, the superb direction and excellent performances all round mean you get carried along.

Film details: Les Miserables (12A) 157 mins.

Director: Tom Hooper

Starring: Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Anna Hathaway

Screening courtesy of Cineworld Crawley

Steve Payne