Us Rating: ****
Get ready to weep!
Unless you count the black-and-white title card, there's nothing — nothing — understated about this adaptation of the beloved musical. Which is precisely what makes it such a glorious marvel. We're talking wall-to-wall operatic numbers and the ultimate five-hankie redemption tale.
Most scintillating of all, some supremely talented stars sing their bloody hearts out. Hugh Jackman mesmerizes as Jean Valjean, an ex-prisoner who breaks parole in 1815 France, then gets hunted for the next 17 years by his prison guard, Javert (Russell Crowe).
Along the way, Valjean encounters ailing factory worker Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and decides to raise her daughter (Amanda Seyfried in adulthood). The actors eschew the lip-synching and go live (often in extreme close-up), which heightens the drama: During a confrontation between Valjean and Javert, the baritone Crowe sings with such anger, the spittle ricochets onto Jackman's face.
Newcomer Samantha Barks, as heartsick Eponine, openly weeps during "On My Own." And, in limited screen time, a broken-down Hathaway leaves an indelible impression, crushing "I Dreamed a Dream."
Stop cringing, musical haters!
A film that oozes this kind of passion only works at full tilt. So embrace it and, yes, hear the people sing.