|Reviewed by: Frank|
|May 6, 1998|
Columbia's Les Miserables surrounds and encompasses. It demands attention as it holds a tight string of tension for the characters and observers alike.
The author, Victor Hugo, places his characters in France in 1812 in his 1,200-page novel which was published in 1862. It was written when Hugo was 60 years old and in exile.
Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson), when released from prison, is befriended by Bishop Myriel. When Valjean steals the bishop's silver, the bishop saves Valjean by saying he had given him the silver. Valjean is changed by the act and pledges to do good works and help others.
Under another name, Vaijean starts a successful factory but he is pursued by Javert (Geoffrey Rush), a police inspector who is committed to the letter of the law. Valjean vows to care for Cosette (Claire Danes) when her mother, Fantine (Uma Thurman) dies.
In Paris, Valjean is forced to face Cosette's first love and his old enemy, Javert.
The tension between the two idealistic men wreaks havoc in both of their lives. Valjean's experience with the bishop compels him to act with jusfice and protect France's lower classes. Javert sees the law as a perfect guide for society which must be followed no matter what
With themes of insurrection, injustice, heroism, freedom, commerce and charity played out powerfully and brilliantly by the cast, Les Miserables is a beautiful, classic masterpiece, filmed with the depressing darkness of the time, and the bright light of hope that comes to Valjean, who is one of the most impressive and heroic characters in Western literature.
In the shadow of Notre Dame, Javert forces himself to face the consequence of his blind compliance with the law and his internal tribunal as Valjean, his nemesis, is freed by his own compassion.
Not one dull moment exists in this rather long film. It flows quickly and smoothly. It has the quality of Doctor Zhivago or Lawrence of Arabia.
Les Miserables is wonderful, brilliant, exciting and one of the best films of the year.