Les Miserables depicts one of the greatest Christian stories of redemption ever told in a powerful and moving, artistic manner. Told through incredible music with an awe inspiring and Oscar® worthy cast, the audience is transported back to France during its pre-revolutionary days of depravity.
The story opens with Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) serving his last day in prison after 19 years of a 5 year sentence for stealing a piece of bread to feed his sister’s starving child. Police Inspector Javet (Russell Crowe) gives Valjean his walking papers and promises to bring him back to prison where all “dangerous” men should live out their existence.
Desperate for food and experiencing constant rejection searching for a simple job, while carrying papers that label him as a dangerous man, Valjean is taken in by a priest who feeds him a hearty meal and gives him a bed for the night. Before the sun rises, Valjean steals away with silver dinning pieces and is caught by the law.
When brought to the priest to validate the crime, the priest refuses to press charges and explains that the silver was a gift. He shows Valjean grace and gives him the prize candle sticks as well, questioning why he left the best part of the gift behind. Once the officers leave, the priest tells Valjean to use the silver to start a new life and be dedicated to help others in return for his life.
Valjean soon skips parole, takes on a new name and becomes an esteemed business owner who helps numerous families cope during the hard times in 19th century France. In the peek of his blessings, he stumbles upon Fantine (Anne Hathaway) who struggles to make enough money to take care of her little girl, Cosette. After selling her hair and a tooth, she lowers herself into a life of prostitution. Feeling responsible, after learning she was once his worker that was fired unjustly, Valjean promises to look after her daughter, demonstrating his newfound ability to give grace to others.
While he raises Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), Valjean learns about love. Stumbling upon a love note to Marious (Eddie Redmayne) he feels a tearing at his heart that drives him to learn about this man. Valjean finds Marious preparing for the revolution and is taken aback by his passion for freedom, something Valjean treasures most dearly. In those moments of standing side by side for the cause, Valjean is moved to show mercy and saves Marious from a gruesome death.
In order to protect Cosette and bring her true love to her side, Valjean finds himself with a new perspective of love, as he makes a sacrificial decision to be lonely in order for Cosette to experience the fullness of life and love.
The film closes with Valjean being found by his loved ones in time for them to say goodbye, as he passes into heaven and the true freedom he longed for. There he is greeted with the cheers of all others who died sacrificially for the ones they loved. Valjean was redeemed and not only understood God’s sacrificial love, but was able to live his life out in the same manner as Christ.
Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of an imprisoned man seeking true freedom was Oscar® worthy – Yes, more than Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance of Lincoln, which was also Oscar® worthy. Jackman took the audience on a journey that was started by a gift of grace, blossomed through a course of love, which led to an act of mercy, followed by true sacrificial love, and culminated in a real and true freedom in Christ.
Tom Hooper deserves an Oscar® for Best Director and Les Miserables deserve to take home the Best Picture Oscar®.
I was amazed at the production value and a couple days later I’m still reeling from the great performances. I was, however, perplexed by Christians on Facebook warning people not to see the film because it was loaded with prostitution, drunkardness, and thievery. While the film depicts these actions, it’s done in its proper light and reveals the depth and power of grace and sacrificial love. Without the contrast, God would seem awfully small.
This is the only film I’ve given 5 stars to in 2012. I did, however, give Lincoln 4.5 stars. And, I have high hopes for Katheryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, but I haven’t seen it yet since its main release isn’t until January 11th. So until then, get into the theater and see the most incredible movie of 2012 – Les Miserables.
Thanks so much for your insights. I believe that this film represents a major opportunity for us to start conversations with outsiders, and I’ve tried to draw together some helpful resources on the Digital Evangelism Issues blog: http://ieday.net/blog/archives/9802
Good review CJ. Overall, this movie is about human emotions, and though a few scenes and some of the acting left me a little unmoved, the film succeeds in showing us the storm of emotions we will face through this life.