Screen mu­si­cal a tow­er­ing achieve­ment

LES MIS­ER­ABLES (12A) ★★★★

Bray People - - LIFESTYLE -

TOM HOOPER, Os­car-win­ning di­rec­tor of The King's Speech, dreamed a dream of im­mor­tal­is­ing ClaudeMichel Schon­berg and Alain Bou­blil's pow­er­house mu­si­cal with­out the con­ven­tional safety net of lip­synch­ing. That au­da­cious gam­ble - ask­ing the ac­tors to sing live in ev­ery take - pays off hand­somely, teas­ing out the heart­break­ing emo­tion in an adap­ta­tion of a stage show which has be­come a global phe­nom­e­non.

The Lon­don pro­duc­tion of Les Mis­er­ables, which opened in 1985 to luke­warm re­views, is the long­est-run­ning mu­si­cal in West End his­tory.

Hooper's ter­rific film em­braces the Schon­berg and Bou­blil song­book with bold di­rec­to­rial flour­ishes and tour-de-force per­for­mances, in­clud­ing a cri de coeur from Anne Hath­away that vir­tu­ally guar­an­tees her the Os­car next month.

Hugh Jack­man also richly de­serves a nom­i­na­tion for his fear­less por­trayal of a con­vict, which re­quired the Aus­tralian ac­tor to shed 30 pounds to con­vinc­ingly por­tray his ema­ci­ated hero.

The film be­gins with a thrilling over­ture in a dock­yard where Val­jean (Jack­man) and his fel­low pris­on­ers haul a ship out of the froth­ing water un­der the watch­ful eye of In­spec­tor Javert (Rus­sell Crowe).

Val­jean is granted pa­role and leaves be­hind his tor­men­tor but can­not se­cure em­ploy­ment be­cause of his shame­ful past. Only the kind­ness of a bishop saves him from star­va­tion.

Eight years later, Val­jean has rein­vented him­self as a revered fac­tory owner in Mon­treuil-sur-Mer, where one of his work­ers, Fan­tine (Hath­away), is cru­elly cast out when the fore­man learns she has an il­le­git­i­mate daugh­ter, Cosette (Is­abelle Allen).

De­ter­mined to raise the money to keep her child un­der the roof of vil­lain­ous Thenardier (Sacha Baron Co­hen) and his wife (Hele- na Bon­ham Carter), Fan­tine sells her hair and then her body as she sobs I Dreamed A Dream. Val­jean dis­cov­ers Fan­tine close to death and agrees to raise Cosette as his own.

So the story moves on a fur­ther nine years with rev­o­lu­tion­ary fer­vour slosh­ing through the grimy streets of Paris, in­flamed by stu­dents En­jol­ras (Aaron Tveit) and Mar­ius (Ed­die Red­mayne).

The lat­ter falls un­der the spell of Cosette (now played by Amanda Seyfried), un­aware that Thenardier's daugh­ter, Epo­nine (Sa­man­tha Barks), adores him from afar...

Les Mis­er­ables is a tow­er­ing achieve­ment in front of and be­hind the cam­era.

With the ben­e­fit of live singing, Hooper doesn't have to pho­to­graph set pieces from afar, cap­tur­ing the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil as ac­tors sing their hearts out in lip-quiv­er­ing close-up.

The cast is su­perb - Barks breaks hearts with her knock­out ren­di­tion of On My Own and Red­mayne matches her note for soar­ing note. Only Rus­sell Crowe is mis­cast. His soft, sweet vo­cals ren­der Javert some­what im­po­tent next to Jack­man's boom­ing de­liv­ery. Bon­ham Carter and Baron Co­hen pro­vide stom­ach-churn­ing comic re­lief.

An­i­mal lovers should avert their eyes when the Thenardiers grind meat for their pies dur­ing a rum­bus­tious sing-along to Master Of The House.

Mag­nifique!

Les Mis­er­ables em­braces the Schon­berg and Bou­blil song­book with bold di­rec­to­rial flour­ishes and tour-de-force per­for­mances.

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