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Victor Hugo's stirring novel of redemption and revolution is brought to life by the artistry of director Billie August and his brilliant cast. Liam Neeson stars as Jean Valjean, a heartless convict who is transformed by a single act of mercy. Uma Thurman is Fantine, the vulnerable prostitute who begs Valjean to raise her only child, Cosette (Claire Danes). And Oscar(r)-winner Geoffrey Rush (Best Actor, Shine, 1996) is an ambitious policeman determined to return Valjean to prison. A truly epic film, LES MISÉRABLES is Magnificent! A compelling and powerful human drama with terrific performances by Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush.
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A friend watching with me just could not help but quote the "I have skills" line from "Taken" when Valjean is at the barricades. Uma Thurman as sad Fantine was remarkable. (I kept waiting for her to pull out a Japanese sword.) Refreshing to see great actors in a film at the beginning of their career.
Having read the novel, and having seen several screen and television versions, as well as the staged musical version six times in nearly twenty years, I consider myself qualified to critique this particular version. I enjoyed this film with certain reservations those being the performances of Claire Daines as Cosette and Hans Matheson as Marius. They both appeared to lack the depth of understanding and the emotional investiment to portray a pair of lovers who were literally beyond their years in maturity.
On the other hand, Liam Neeson as Valjean and Geoffrey Rush as Javert were superb in portraying both the long suffering hero and the archtypical villian. The key to both these characters is the individual decisions which they both make as they approached the turning points in both their own lives. With Valjean having been shown kindness and compassion from a kindly old bishop, becomes a kind and virtuous soul himself while Javert being born of a criminal and a prostiute in prison is trying to redeem his circumstance at virtually every turn for something that truly wasn't his fault....his birth!
Uma Thurman was equal to the task of playing the abandoned but hopeful Fantine whose short, tragic life is made whole upon her death by Valjean's promise to her that he would spend his remaining days caring for her beloved child Cosette.
All in all, and I must agree with a previous reviewer, that the ending is rather anti-climactic and should have concluded with a more subtly nuanced one both satisfying and worth remembering. I recommend it highly!