Based on the musical, based on the book, this is basically Catch Me If You Can set in Revolution era France, with Wolverine, Gladiator, Catwoman, Borat and some legendarily powerful music. How does Les Misérables transfer from stage to screen?

les_miserables_ver11Les Misérables.
Directed- Tom Hooper.
Jean Valjean- Hugh Jackman
Javert- Russell Crowe
Fantine- Anne Hathaway
Cosette- Amanda Seyfried
Thénardier- Sacha Baron Cohen
Madame Thénardier- Helena Bonham Carter
Marius- Eddie Redmayne
Éponine- Samantha Barks

Jean Valjean is imprisoned for 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread. Upon his release, Inspector Javert vows to be there if Valjean ever falters, or disappears. Valjean promptly changes his identity and disappears. Over the next 20 years Inspector Javert endeavours to capture Valjean, as Valjean raises Cosette, who is the daughter of Fantine. All this, and France is just out of one revolution, staring down the barrel of another…


To begin with…The music is obviously great, otherwise the stage show wouldn’t be as vastly successful as it is. Numbers like I Dreamed A Dream, Bring Him Home, Master Of The House and Red And Black are flat out brilliant. When it comes to the movie itself, this production is pretty epic: with off the charts production value, and song performances and staging that are for the most part brilliant. There’s a massive scale to this movie that you just cannot achieve on stage. And the way they recorded the songs enables the performers to truly emote. It really is acting…with music and lyrics.


Jackman carries the weight of the movie, much as he carries the flag at the end of the opening number. His performance is great, and he hits all the notes, while his voice also conveying the hard times he has endured. However, he does falter, as does almost everyone in fairness, when singing random lines of exposition and “dialogue”. Crowe’s performance, like his voice, while not exceptional, is consistent. That said, I did notice though that his head is basically a moley hair covered egg. Baron Cohen steals most of the scenes he is in, as he brings much needed levity to the movie, and his teaming with Bonham Carter is solid. The real star is Hathaway, who is AMAZING, particularly her rendition of I Dreamed A Dream. She belts out the song, with the camera unflatteringly close up…resulting in an emotional gut punch that you won’t forget. It is the best sequence in the movie, leaving you shuddering with goose bumps and tingles.


Problem is, that is the high point of the movie, and it’s in the first 45 minutes of a 160 minute movie. Tom Hooper does a great job of transferring the show from stage to screen. The movie looks petty great, with an admirable scale that probably wasn’t easy to achieve, and Hooper deserves credit for this. This is the best possible movie version of the stage show. However, this is just not a great movie. It peaks too early, with Hathaway’s performance, and dips from there. A movie that starts with a boat parking, and ends in revolution, somehow starts much bigger than it finishes.

The movie is clearly divided in to three acts, divided by title cards demonstrating the passage of time. The tale is relentlessly downbeat. This is the fault of the source materials, not the movie itself. The music, while very good, isn’t as massively soary and all encompasing as one would expect. The teen love bit in the last act is a bit lame, but Samantha Barks shines, reprising her roll from the stage production. Eddie Redmayne has a great voice, but also has a very slappable face. And Seyfried is good but not great, like the movie itself.

So…This movie is not Les Happy Folk, as it’s pretty grim going for everyone. The main failings of the movie come from the story of the book, and the format of the stage show. But this is a staggering production, with solid performances throughout, particularly Hathaway. If you know and like the show, you will love this. If you don’t, you’ll be impressed with the music, and the scale of the movie, but could leave unimpressed by the story told.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Reader Rating



About Author

What to say...born in the last year of the seventies, the decade of the best music and movies, Cathal's earliest memories are of movies and comics. Star Wars, Batman, Superman and Indiana Jones filled his childhood, and not a whole lot has changed. He lives in Dublin, with his supremely understanding wife. Cathal voice his opinions across the various corners of The IntarWebs: @CatHaloMovies on The Twitter; Cat Halo Movies on The FaceSpace; and on the Major Spoilers Forum, where all manner of opinions are aired by all manner of folk on a wide variety of topics.


  1. I came away with much the same end-feeling: after Anne Hathaway’s arc, I was left wondering how my emotions could take any more of a pounding; I needn’t have worried. I really liked Eddie Redmayne, voice and face, but found Samantha Barks lacking. Sadly, Crowe wasn’t the only problem with his parts: they reorchestrated his signature songs, presumably for his “range,” and the result was much more Bryan Adams than anyone should have in their Les Mis.

    Great review. What musical do you think made the transition best from stage to screen? For my money: Chicago. Having seen both, I much prefer the screen version.

    • Thanks Sean. Translating musicals from stage to the screen is a tricky business. A lot of attempts have been made, and for some intangible reason most have failed. Les Mis is definitely one of the better attempts.
      I’ve seen Chicago live a few times myself, including on The West End, but while I like the movie I don’t love it. I’m very partial to Jesus Christ Superstar, and think the 1973 movie is a great film version. Evita is also a great movie, with the production value to match the scope of the tale, but I prefer the music in JSC.
      But my favorite is definitely The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’ve seen the show on The West End, and loved it. The songs are great, and the show is fun. The movie not only translates that fun to the screen, the show is actually improved upon in the movie. But that could just be because I saw and loved the movie first…

      • Also loved JSC, though not Evita, stage or screen. Man of La Mancha, the stage version, holds a tender place in my heart, though my wife throws sharp objects every time I start up the film version in Netflix.

  2. Anne Hathaway is wonderful and deserves every award she’s nominated for, but she is by no means the star of this movie. I may agree she’s the best part of the movie, but the star of this film is the music and the story.

    I took the wife and girl to see it and by the end, there wasn’t a dry eye between the three of us. This was my first experience with Les Mis the musical and I absolutely adored it. I haven’t stopped listening to the soundtrack since I saw it on Christmas Day.

    A gorgeous, gorgeous movie with incredible depth. It’s an exploration of redemption and grace and the abject relentless, unbendable nature of the law. I really can’t recommend it enough.

  3. this review is a month late. great movie. great music. has absolutely nothing to do with comic books so no clue why its on this site. wheres the review for “Last Stand” or “Movie 43” or does this site only review movies they like… a month after the hype is over.. didnt this movie win some awards… i was like “that movie won some awards, might be good, but im going to wait to see what my comic book website says about it before i see it.” some times your site confuses me.

        • The full slogan for the site is “Major – The Best comic book community for news, reviews, commentary and more on the comic book and pop culture industry!” If you are going to be an anonymous snark troll DNDMatthew, please get it correct.

          Les Mis is clearly part of pop culture, and as has been pointed out, the movie did just open recently in Europe where our reviewer is located. In regards to the rating, mileage may vary, but I can assure you that the review is honest without any influence from outside entities.

          As the Executive Producer I decide what ultimately goes on the site, when it goes on the site, and how it goes on the site. So, bottom line – my site, my rules. If you don’t like it, that’s the way it is.

  4. Just read Cat’s review of the upcoming Charlie Chaplin movie, “modern times”. I hear rumors there might be sound in it! I’m all a flutter!

  5. Why this movie is on this site:

    Cathal’s review is targeting people with a high degree of knowledge of comics, but limited knowledge of musicals and operas. He is hoping to broaden their horizons.
    The Musical in question could be an introduction to musicals because a) it was recent, b) it’s good and c) It stars several genre actors and actress’.

    • Les Miserable was almost released a month ago here in the States, but in Europe (where Cathal resides) it just started releasing towards the middle part of this month.

  6. How is this not related to comic books? I mean, much like every other team at Marvel, Wolverine is on the Avengers, the X-Men, X-Force, Power Pack (probably), Alpha Flight (I bet) and now The Miserables. Makes sense to me. Now to read the review and see how much ass these Miserables kick.

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