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:: Les Miserables

Like so many directors before Tom Hooper finds himself at that point in his career when he has to find a project that will match the brilliance that he obtained with his previous project, in Hooper’s case the Oscar winning ‘The King’s Speech’. Hooper surprised everybody by taking on the massive task of trying to pull off an all-singing (and I mean all-singing there is no single line of dialogue in this film) version of the much loved theatre show ‘Les Miserables’. Pull it off and Hooper would be considered one of the great filmmakers of this generation, fail and he’s at risk of becoming just another one-hit wonder director.

Luckily for Hooper ‘Les Miserables’ does enough to show that Hooper is a fine filmmaker. It has its faults but does okay them with ease. For those that have never seen the stage show ‘Les Miserables’ is set in 19th-century France and sees a prisoner by the name of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) break parole and then re-emerge years later as a Mayor who cares about the people of his town. His caring nature is shown even more so when he promises a dying mother named Fantine (Anne Hathaway) that he will look after her daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen). Valjean rescues Cosette from the devious Thenardier (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Madame Thenardier (Helena Bonham Carter) and then once disappears as a bid to escape the clutches of determined Police Officer Javert (Russell Crowe).

Years later the pair surface again when Cosette (now played by Amanda Seyfried) spots Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne) a young revolutionary that is determined to bring down the monarchy and is unaware of the fact that he is breaking the heart of his close friend, Eponine (Samantha Barks). Marius and Cosette fall instantly in love and soon Valjean finds himself fighting alongside Marius and once again trying to avoid capture.

Early on it does seem like Hooper has failed to make ‘Les Miserables’ a great film. The film seems to chop and change between time periods with just a brief ‘eight or nine years later’ appearing on the screen. The result is that you never really find yourself warming to or caring for Jean Valijean in the way you are supposed to, but cinema lovers will soon see that Hooper had another card up his sleeve.

The card is the fact that the second half of ‘Les Miserables’ is absolutely faultless and the scenes around the barricades are some of the finest pieces of cinema that you will see this year. Early on the fact the film has every line sung sometimes stood out but in the second half of the film the music comes to the fore and ‘Les Miserables’ deserves to be called one of the finest musicals ever made.

If you are willing to endure a seriously lacklustre first half then ‘Les Miserables’ will reward you with a second half that makes this one of the finest movies of 2012.