Writer: Siti Munawirah MustaffaWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”, “Moulin Rouge” and “Phantom of the Opera”
You might have been well versed with the 1,400 pages novel of the same name written by Victor Hugo. Many of you might have even seen the 1998's film adaptation directed by Bille August and wondered if any new movie version could ever top that.
So, when Tom Hooper decided to come out with a musical, requiring every actor to sing live during filming, instead of lip-synching to pre-recorded tracks, one could see that he's making a big risk here. That's what you'll be getting throughout 160 minutes of the show: Singing. No actual conversation. You're either a musical fan or you're not. Whether you're feeling ripped to shreds by the emotional story or merely ripped off as you leave the hall, is going to depend on what your preferences and expectations are.
Like the story in the book itself, the film is centred on Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a former convict who breaks his parole and has since then been relentlessly pursued by Javert (Russell Crowe), a prison guard who devotes himself to the law. Fate comes to a twist and turn when Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a factory worker turned prostitute dies, leaving behind a young daughter by the name of Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), who is later on taken into care by Valjean.
The opening of the film is gripping - hundreds of imprisoned slaves sing for their longing freedom as they pull the rope, dragging an enormous ship into the port at Toulon while being watched by Javert from above. Jackman is almost unrecognisable as a coarse looking Valjean in this scene, prior to being transformed into a well-polished town mayor in the next few scenes to come.
While Jackman's performance is highly praised, there is no doubt that Anne Hathaway is a big time show stealer in this film as she plays the grief-stricken Fantine. With her remarkable acting and success in delivering the notes, one could not help but to stare in amazement and feel her pain, especially when she hits it off with "I Dreamed A Dream".
The selection of big names such as Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen as well as Helena Bonham Carter in this version, however appealing, might perhaps be perceived as a safe choice - something that helps to prevent the film from falling flat. But that's the problem with huge stars - when they're all piled up together in one movie, viewers (reviewer is of no exception) could not help but to pay more attention to how they perform rather than the characters themselves.
And that relates back to Crowe, a good actor, but seems a tad too timid as ruthless, obsessed lawman Javert. Despite having singing experience, the New Zealand born actor is noticeably struggling with some of his notes and sounds slightly awkward during certain scenes.
What is admirable about this film is the riveting portrayal of the French revolution inspired by Victor Hugo's paintings throughout the film, though at some point the CGI effects might appear a little too over the top. You might feel Hooper being overly ambitious in his direction for "Les Miserables", but even so, it is pretty hard to dislike this version and embrace its intimacy because, hey, that's what crowd-pleasing high budget commercial films are supposed to be like, anyway. Regardless of which version is preferred, one has to understand that musicals are not the slightest bit easy to do.Cinema Online, 14 December 2012