Les Misérables was simply superb! At the end of the film, six of us sat in the back row utterly silent, not trusting ourselves to speak, whilst in the row in front a young girl sobbed. Very slowly the cinema emptied and I haven't seen such a silent, contemplative audience leave an auditoreum since Schindler's List. Of course, the film is an emotional sledgehammer and you would have to have had your emotional nerve-endings cauterised to resist it, either that, or be absolutely determined to cut a pose as a young, dead hard, post-modernist critic eager to make a name for yourself like the teenage prat who wrote a pathetic review in The Independent.
Of course, the film, like any other great artistic enterprise, is not perfect. For example I thought the very opening scene in the shipyards with convicts dragging a ship into dry dock was unconvincing and heavy-handed - in all senses! I admit that at that point my heart sank and I thought I was in for two hours and forty minutes of the worst sort of melodrama. However, once past that, the film found its feet and took us all on Victor Hugo's epic journey through sin, mercy and on to final redemption. I have seen the stage show four times but I had not taken on board the tremendously strong message of Christianity that it contains. This story really is Christianity in action. Of course, there is a dollop of soppy socialism in the story - not at all the same thing as Christianity! - because it is set against the backdrop of the mini French revolution of 1835, but predominantly the story is one of personal tragedy laced with the optimism of final redemption.
No doubt there will be no end of 'Clever Dicks', like The Independent's critic, who will complain that the singing is not perfect to which I would reply that if you want perfect singing, go to the opera but if you do, do not expect to see perfect acting! The point about the performers in this film is that their slight imperfections in singing actually added to the realism of their performances - it persuaded us that these were real people enmeshed in the all-too-real drama of their situation. (I was reminded of a concert performance of West Side Story I saw on TV once featuring trained opera singers - they drained the emotional blood out of it and left a dessicated corpse on stage!) I will not describe each and every performance because they were all just excellent. However, I must just mention Hugh Jackman because, although he is constantly in the press and has, I gather, a string of film performances to his credit, I had never seen him before so at least now I know why people rate him, rightly, as a truly first-rate actor. (There was a man who could have played Jack Reacher!)
Instead, let me heap my praise on the director, Tom Hooper and the entire cast and crew of this terrific film - most of whom are British - HOORAH! This joins the other 46-odd films which constitute my Top Ten Favourites. Thinking about it, I am taken with how many musical films go into my Top Ten. For a man who does not know the difference between a crotchet and a quaver, that is very odd!
ADDITIONAL: I have just come across this earlier piece in The Telegraph which provides some interesting background to the way this film was made - worth a quick read.