Star rating 10/10
You've got to hand it to Tom Hooper - he really knows how to direct a film to leave a lasting impression. He did it the hard way with the small budget and unlikely Oscar dominating The King's Speech, but surely no-one will be surprised this time with the blockbuster and nailed on award winner Les Misérables.
It truly is sensational, but Hooper has not taken the easiest route to translating the worldwide theatrical musical smash hit onto the screen. He got his impressive cast to sing 'live' as they acted rather than have pre recorded songs overdubbed afterwards in a studio. This was a brave decision, as this musical version of Victor Hugo's epic novel about an earlier unsuccessful French revolution, is virtually all singing with hardly any spoken words, but one which results in a film which feels electrifyingly alive.
This is lavish, big and bold film making, rather than nuanced gentle storytelling that builds and builds. It hits you like a juggernaut from the off and does not let go until around 2 hours 40 minutes later. Although to be fair it never feels overlong as the action, passion, romance, revolution, misery, vengeance, and heartache just keep on coming. Tissues may be needed...
The whole cast are tremendous with Anne Hathaway giving a stunning, emaciated performance as Fantine, who sinks into prostitution in a bid to get money to feed her young daughter, Cosette, from whom she is separated. Eddie Redmayne is also impressive as the radical student Marius, who is torn between loyalty to his comrades in fighting the good fight, and his love at first sight for the all grown up Cosette.
But the central relationship of the story is between Jean Valjean, an ex-convict now trying to live an honest life, including adopting Cosette after her mother's untimely death, played in a simply towering performance by Hugh Jackman, and his former jailor Inspector Javert, who wants to hunt him down and expose his past. Russell Crowe is great as the baddie of the piece, Javert, and in my humble opinion is coming in for quite a lot of unfair criticism over his vocal performance, which is absolutely more than adequate.
And there is a lovely comic turn, providing much needed light relief from all the emotion, from Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the grasping innkeepers who do a very poor job of caring for poor Cosette before Valjean steps in.
But this is Jackman's show, he is superb from first to last, and proves what an accomplished actor and singer he is. Of course the wonderful score also helps. Hooper has managed to take a much loved musical and turn it into a celluloid sensation. It has much more impact than even the beloved stage show does. If you don't love musicals, this probably won't win you over, but if like me you are an avid fan, Les Mis will be just down your revolutionary alley, and you will leave the cinema with your heart soaring.