Really potent production
Les Misérables is one of the most potent films you are likely to see this year. It’s a volatile and brilliantly executed contemporary version of Victor Hugo’s French Revolution epic – and received an Oscar nod this week.
Considering the explosive political climate in France at present, Les Misérables comes at an opportune time and masterfully illustrates the serious disparities that exist within the French social system and the crucial role the police play in monitoring the unfolding violence and intimidation that occur.
Their role is a sensitive one – yet director Ladj Ly, a Mali-born French filmmaker, throws light on how a few corrupt and violent cops help ferment the already unjust system for their own gain.
Corporal Stéphane Ruiz (Damien Bonnard), a reserved and sensitive young cop, has recently joined the Anti-Crime unit in Montfermeil, Paris, (where sections of Hugo’s 1862 novel is set) from the Provinces.
He meets his new colleagues, Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada (Djebril Zonga), who are both experienced members of the team, and goes on patrol with them.
Beneath the veneer of solidarity and security is a festering sore that shows alarming signs of rupturing at any moment.
Chris is a violent, aggressive chauvinist bruiser who thrives on the adrenaline the streets bring with it. He is known in the neighbourhood as the “Pink Pig”, a nickname he actually relishes.
Stéphane is a more subdued and sensitive individual who has difficulty adjusting to the tough methods employed by his colleagues.
Pangs of conscience do reside within his psyche, but there will come a time during his tenure when he is forced to make important choices.