Crafted with care by Tom Hooper, the Oscar-winning director’s follow-up to The King’s Speech (2010) is the first big-screen version of the Broadway musical. Instead of utilising the traditional method of lip-synching the vocals in post-production, all the actors were required to sing live on-set.
For those unfamiliar with Hugo’s tale, Les Miserables follows an ex-convict (Jackman) who breaks parole and, with a little help from a compassionate bishop (Colm Wilkinson), refashions himself into a prosperous factory owner. Pursued through the years by the dogged policeman (Crowe), the former prisoner eventually joins student rebels during the 1832 Paris uprising.
Among the subsidiary characters is an impoverished single mother (Anne Hathaway, whose heartbreaking rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream” makes her a frontrunner for a long-overdue Oscar), a pair of thieving innkeepers (Helena Bonham Carter-Sacha Baron Cohen) and their lovelorn daughter (Samantha Barks).
Despite his parallel career as a singer in rock bands, Russell Crowe’s solo numbers feel flat. He is good, however, at conveying the inner demons of his conflicted character. Hugh Jackman has a sufficiently throaty voice. All seen and heard, Les Miserables is strictly for fans of all-singing movie musicals.