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Les Misérables


Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter

Director: Tom Hooper

Victor Hugo's oft-told tale, now a long-running stage musical, finally comes to the cinema. It has triumphant moments, too many huge close-ups, full-throated singing from Jackman, as the much-wronged Valjean, and lusty counterpoint from Crowe as his nemesis Javert.

Imprisoned in 1815 Paris for a stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving child, Valjean does 19 years' very hard labour, with prison commandant Javert intent on bringing him back at the slightest opportunity after he is paroled.

At his lowest ebb, Valjean is given sanctuary at a local church, but makes off with the silver. Caught by police, he's released when the priest says he gave him the silver and adds two candlesticks - which remain Valjean's talismen and treasures.

The ex-convict leaves vowing to become a better man and, only eight years later, we find him as mayor and benefactor of a small town. But the relentless Javert is ever on the alert and, when Valjean tries to help Fantine (Hathaway), one of the factory girls for whose descent into prostitution he feels responsible, his cover is blown.

He rides off into the night with Cosette, Fantine's small daughter, and attempts once more to start a new life.

The film is almost entirely sung, with varying degrees of success, although much of the choral work is inspiring, and Hathaway's rendition of I Had a Dream is heartfelt: it isn't her fault that Susan Boyle has done it to death, but it's really the only memorable song in this long film; and there is an awful lot of singing.

Jackman, though he doesn't seem to age until the closing scenes, is a perfect choice for Valjean, and hits some remarkable top notes. But Redmayne, though he sings beautifully, is otherwise wet as Marius and Seyfried vapid as the older Cosette. Bonham Carter and Baron Cohen are perhaps a little too arch as the plot's comic relief, the treacherous Thénardiers, but Samantha Barks impresses as the tragic Eponine and the film gains strength towards the end, rising to a stunning conclusion.

Crowd scenes are admirably marshalled and the piece is, on the whole, well worth seeing.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2012. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor.
157 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 0.

Review date: 05 Jan 2013