Les Misérables follows the epic tale of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a convict released on parole after serving a nineteen-year sentence. After an act of generosity by a priest in a small church atop a hill, Valjean swears to change his life, and breaks his parole in order to start an honest life with a new identity. Javert (Russell Crowe), a prison guard and later policeman who released Valjean, dedicates his life to capturing the escaped convict. After eight long years Valjean has become a factory owner in the small town of Montreuil-sur-Mer. When Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a worker in his factory, is discovered to be sending money to her illegitimate daughter Cosette, who lives with the cruel innkeepers named the Thénardiers. Fantine is fired and has to resort to selling her hair, and later prostitution, simply to be able to support her daughter Cosette. At her bedside in the hospital, Jean Valjean promises Fantine that he will find Cosette and care of her daughter.
Nine years later, we meet Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and his fellow revolutionaries, who plot to begin a French rebellion against the autocrats. One day in the street he gazes upon a beautiful young lady, the fair Cosette (now played by Amanda Seyfried), and instantly falls in love. While Parisians have yet to grasp the concept of revolution as laid out by Marius’ group of idealist friends, they instead construct a barricade in a small alleyway and fight to the death against the army. Jean Valjean confronts Javert again, this time with Valjean as the voice of ethical righteousness, this confrontation forces Javert to question the morality of his civic duties. The film concludes in the aftermath of a battle, but really is set in the pause before a war begins.
While the music of Les Misérables is fantastic, and performances from Hugh Jackman to Samantha Barks are all superb, the film still feels lacking in certain areas. Firstly, the emotional peak in the film seems to be Anne Hathaway’s early song, and the ending is not as emotive or cathartic as it could be. Also, with such emphasis on musical performance, the plot is often valued second. While this pays off in terms of providing us with a steady of flow of wonderful music, it also means that we don’t care as much for the storyline and that the lengthily film doesn’t quite carry its own weight all the way through its 157 minutes. That being said, Les Misérables is still a fantastic musical with emotional and vocal power.