'Les Miserables' - heart-wrenching epic saga

Film: "Les Miserables"; Cast: Aaron Tveit, Amanda Seyfried, Anne Hathaway, Colm Wilkinson, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter, Hugh Jackman, Isabelle Allen, Russell Crowe, Sacha Baron Cohen and Samantha Barks; Director: Tom Hooper; Rating: ****

Sad stories sell like hot cakes and "Les Miserables" tugs at your heart strings. An adaptation from Victor Hugo's eponymous book, it is not a historical story, but a classic tale of humanity, love and loss set against the backdrop of a political uprising in France, the French Revolution.

Directed by Tom Hooper, who had earlier done "The King's Speech", "Les Miserables" is a spectacular blockbuster. From the first to the last frame, the film enthralls you like a magnum opus.

It rolls out a non-linear narration. It is the story of a reformed man, Jean Valjean (Jackman) and a duty bound policeman, Javert (Crowe).

In 1815, chained prisoners are treated like slaves. Valjean, imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf to save his sister's son, jumps parole.

Wandering in the wintery streets, Valjean is astonished and moved by the Christ-like charity of the Bishop (Colm Wilkinson), who takes him in, and forgives him for attempting to steal silverware of the Church, making him a present of it and protecting him from arrest. With, "Why did I allow this man to touch my soul and teach me love?" - Valjean is a changed man.

Seven years later, he becomes a mayor and a factory owner.

One fine day, he bumps into police officer, Javert, who recognises him as the prisoner. And with the belief, "Once a thief, always a thief", Javert trails him.

His path crosses that of his poor employee Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and her daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), who falls in love with revolutionary firebrand Marius (Eddie Redmayne) just as Paris erupts in violence.

Valjean must unite the lovers before making his final reckoning with Javert.

This is an oft-told story. But what makes "Les Miserables" memorable is the melodramatic musical fare that it is. It is visually packed with emotion; filled with grief, romance, humility and humour.

The film charms its audience with passion, sincerity and an overwhelming force of the characters. Every line, every note, every scene is belted out with diaphragm-quivering conviction and unbroken, unremitting intensity. The physical strength of this movie is impressive: an awe-inspiring and colossal effort, just like Valjean's as he lifts the flagpole at the beginning of the film. You can almost see the movie's muscles flexing and the veins standing out like whipcords on its forehead.

Crowe offers the most open, human performance as a cruel, unbending law-officer and royalist spy. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are great as the dodgy innkeepers M and Mme Thenardier, respectively. The urchin, Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone), is charming as he addresses grownups in Cockney as "my dear".

Other moments are less up to the mark. Hathaway's fervent rendition of "I dreamed a dream", in extreme close-up, has been much admired, but her performance and appearance is a bit Marie Antoinette-ish. Her poverty-stricken character is supposed to have pitifully sold her teeth to a street dentist. Conveniently, this turns out to mean just her back teeth as her dazzlingly white front teeth are untouched.

The cinematography and production value are very good. Especially with Jackman hiking over mountaintops, and heaving a ship into a vast drydock alongside hundreds of other slaves, but apart from this, much of the film's final act is confined to one cramped studio set which represents downtown Paris.

The action should be momentous, considering that a revolution is brewing, but instead it seems paltry, and altogether more like a stage show than a film.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

On Now: Chennai Super Kings vs Delhi Daredevils

On Now: Chennai Super Kings vs Delhi Daredevils

IPL7, MATCH 8—Chennai bat. Hilfenhaus, Manhas, Ishwar in; Delhi unchanged. More »

Bowling worries for Super Kings

Bowling worries for Super Kings

After failing to defend a mammoth 205 against Kings XI Punjab, Chennai have a lot to think about. More »

T20 test for Cheteshwar Pujara

T20 test for Cheteshwar Pujara

The class act from Saurashtra may have to rethink his approach to the mannerless format. More »

Punjab pull off another big chase

Punjab pull off another big chase

GAME 7, SHARJAH—Maxwell, Miller, Pujara chase down Rajasthan's 192. More »

BCCI reputation lowest in 80 years: Manohar

BCCI reputation lowest in 80 years: Manohar

The former BCCI president says he was "disillusioned" by the happenings at the emergent working committee meeting on Sunday. More »

Special meeting to replace Srinivasan

Special meeting to replace Srinivasan

The BCCI is likely to convene a special general body meeting (SGM) in May to replace N Srinivasan on the board's disciplinary committee. More »

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Some members stressed on the need for proposing names with an "impeccable record and clean image". More »

Roach escapes injury after car crash

Roach escapes injury after car crash

The West Indies fast bowler lost control of his BMW sedan due to slippery road conditions in his native Barbados on Saturday. More »

Repose faith in Indian coaches

Repose faith in Indian coaches

All of them cost plenty of dollars which I feel is unnecessary for a two- month tournament, says former cricketer Yajurvindra Singh. More »

Panel can help clean mess: Raghavan

Panel can help clean mess: Raghavan

The former CBI Director is one of the three candidates proposed by the BCCI to head the enquiry into the IPL betting and spot-fixing scandal. More »

Cook relieved after period in limbo

Cook relieved after period in limbo

The England captain is looking forward to a fresh start after a dispiriting Ashes defeat last year. More »

[INTERVIEW] Jayawardene and Sangakkara

[INTERVIEW] Jayawardene and Sangakkara

Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara go over their World T20 win, and feel grateful to have fans whose support remains unwavering in victory and de… More »

Need to improve fielding: Ashwin

Need to improve fielding: Ashwin

[T20 Newsline] Lacklustre Super Kings, fast-improving Sanju Samson and other news from IPL-7. More »

Aussie coach joins emerging Afghanistan

Aussie coach joins emerging Afghanistan

Peter Anderson has started work in Kabul as the fast-developing team prepare for their debut at next year's World Cup. More »

Chaos threatens to engulf SL again

Chaos threatens to engulf SL again

As Lanka's head coach decides to jump ship, euphoria over winning an ICC tournament has dissipated into fuistration. More »

Jayasuriya unhappy at Farbrace conduct

Jayasuriya unhappy at Farbrace conduct

Sri Lanka's chief selector is upset at news of head coach Paul Farbrace's possible move to England. More »

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

The Nawab of Najafgarh says a good run in IPL could help his chances of a comeback on India's tour to England in June. More »

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Furious fifties by Duminy and Dinesh Karthik end a long losing streak for the Daredevils. More »

Five things England must do to bounce back

Five things England must do to bounce back

England have appointed a new head coach in Peter Moores. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

‘Felt like helpless minority’

‘Felt like helpless minority’

Former BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke says emotions got the better of Srinivasan and he tried to oversimplify things by calling Meiyappan an “enthusiast.” More »

Royal test for Kings

Royal test for Kings

Preview — Clash of philosophies between Australia-centric teams More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

The world record that nearly wasn't

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »