Posted January 15, 2013 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Movies/TV

MOVIE REVIEW: Les Misérables

Universal Pictures, Solar-UIP
Philippine Release Date: January 16, 2013
MTRCB Rating: PG
158 minutes

At some point in the middle of Les Misérables’s two-hour-thirty-eight-minute run, Hugh Jackman truly sings.

As he takes the young Cosette with him, Jean Valjean (Jackman) breaks into song as his heart stirs anew. Here he is, holding the promise of a new beginning, not just for this child, but for him as well. He sings about the gift of life, and it is wonderful – a kind of quiet power that resonates with you, not because of its intensity or volume, but because of its sheer emotional weight. As Valjean looks outside his carriage window, it slowly, steadily, and definitely sinks in: suddenly, something has begun, and his life has indeed found its purpose.*

It is a known fact that the film, based on the musical adaptation of one of novelist Victor Hugo’s greatest works, revolves around Valjean; a man shackled to a past more restricting and soul-shattering than any iron cage could ever be. As he embarks on a journey of redemption – one which was not even clear to him, especially at the beginning – he unknowingly touches the lives of many people. While most of these lives end in the most tragic ways, peace eventually comes to all who deserve it, whether here or in the afterlife.

This is hardly the first time that Les Misérables made the jump from print to film reel; however, this is definitely the first time that the musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg has been brought to life on the silver screen. To do justice to the critically-acclaimed play, the film features an ensemble cast. While Jackman and Anne Hathaway (as Fantine) definitely lead with solid acting and majestic vocals, the inspired performances by Amanda Seyfried (as Cosette), Eddie Redmayne (Marius) and Samantha Barks (Eponine), as well as the regal yet menacing presence of Russell Crowe (Javert), all help to make the film much greater than the sum of its parts. Each significant character is given their time to shine with their own songs, my personal favorites being Barks’s heartbreaking rendition of On My Own and the lengthy and hilarious high-energy number of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (as the Thenardiers), Master of the House.

Just about every aspect of Les Misérables blends with one another harmoniously – the film in its entirety is extremely well-done. The whole film is a treat for the senses, as eye-popping visuals and beautiful orchestra music come together for an outstanding production truly worthy of praise. The filmmakers have taken impressive measures to produce a film of quality and substance, from the accurate recreation of 19th-century France to the subtle and not-so-subtle movements and gestures that illustrate the defining traits of each character. Les Misérables moves, angers, saddens, and empowers. It manipulates us, and we, willing pawns that we are, are all too ready to cry buckets for lives lost, cheer for the underdogs, or secretly and silently wish for the villains to receive their comeuppance. It is, indeed, an organic experience, and only the most heartless among the heartless will not feel anything after sitting through this film. There may be slow moments, but there are hardly ever any dull moments. In fact, some might argue that the overall pace may perhaps be a little fast. While I do understand the reasoning behind the decision to put more emphasis on some events compared to others, I actually would have wanted the stories of some of the secondary leads to be explored a bit further.

Nevertheless, the challenge in writing a review for Les Misérables lies not in the process of evaluating whether it’s a film worth viewing or not – that is a question that doesn’t even need to be asked anymore.

No, the real challenge is when it hits you that, suddenly, you’re out of ways to express just how much of a masterpiece it is.

Perhaps I could take lessons from Valjean.



*The song in question, “Suddenly”, is a new one – it was specifically created for this film. 

A big big “thank you!” goes out to our friends from SM Cinemas and Solar-UIP for the special screening of Les Misérables. Be sure to Like the official Solar-UIP fanpage on Facebook!

Mikael Angelo Francisco