Les Miserables****

Posted: January 15, 2013 in Cinema

Whenever a great piece of theatre is translated into cinema, it is inevitable that many who loved the original will be disappointed. The makers of this could have risked alienating the devotees by choosing to discard many of the show’s key features to create a new cinematic vision, but this adaptation does not take that road; it sets out to be a definitive version of the original and, whilst it cannot replicate the experience of live theatre, it can offer the highest production values and optimum casting. Judged by these criteria, it is difficult to imagine how it could have been better done. For the first time in a major screen musical, the performers all sing live to camera rather than miming to pre-recorded tracks and this innovation is a brilliant success that will change film musicals forever. Russell Crowe as Javert looks slightly uncomfortable but, otherwise, the singing is exemplary. Karaoke style singing might suffice in comedic musicals but here it was critical not to repeat the disastrous mis-casting of Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd” and to use only actors who can really sing. Among leading Hollywood stars, only Hugh Jackman has a background in musical theatre, so maybe he cast himself, but more to the point is that he seems born to play Jean Valjean; he is utterly magnificent throughout.

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