Blu-ray Review: ‘Les Miserables’ (2012)

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Blu-ray Review: ‘Les Miserables’ (2012)

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"Les Miserables," the 2012 screen adaptation of Victor Hugo's famed literary classic, comes out on a two-disc set consisting of a Blu-ray disc and a DVD. The package hosts the film's Blu-ray, DVD, UV digital, and iTunes digital copies, as well as a handful of extras. Like the source material's immensely popular stage musical, this Tom Hooper picture required its all-star cast to sing live on set instead of recording music in a sound studio. It stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Samantha Barks, and Eddie Redmayne.

This sprawling epic set in 19th-century France follows the path toward redemption of Jean Valjean, a man imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. While eluding the proud officer Javert who is determined to do anything to catch him, he encounters the ailing Fantine and he vows to take care of her young daughter Cosette. As many years pass, the French revolution further intertwines their complicated lives.


This film features an intentionally slow but steady evolution from gritty dark to light. Everything starts predominantly gloomy with a lot of stark shadows, aggressively bluish tones, and low-key lights, then the grading gradually changes to a more golden amber tone halfway through. Epic in scope yet mostly intimate in emotion, the images provide a wealth of visual information even in shots engulfed by pitch-black shadows. There are no glaring artifacts and other visual anomalies to take notice anywhere in the picture.

The many close-ups primarily rely on fish-eye lenses to give several key sequences that sense of irony when compared to watching a stage production, in which case is unable to capture heavier emotions through up-close facial features. The very tight and often distorted shots provide staggering amount of details as actors belt out their lines.


This disc edition features a seven-channel lossless track, along with an alternate five-channel surround track. The track's crystal clear main vocals are aptly locked in the center channel, while some supporting vocals shine with effective front and left pans in a number of scenes. The audience can enjoy the additional dimension to the undertakings courtesy of the mix's sterling fidelity, active surround activity, and beautifully deep LFE.

The pluses and minuses on the production's live-singing approach are easily discernible in the film's overall quality. But on a technical standpoint, its major sound elements ultimately offer a rich and enveloping mix. Hathaway's searing performance of "I Dreamed A Dream" is nothing but jaw-dropping. However, a handful of decently acted parts turn out quite disappointing because the actors don't have the vocal chops for their semi-operatic singing parts, particularly those of Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham-Carter and Sacha Baron-Cohen.


The package contains the following supplements: "Feature Commentary by Director Tom Hooper," "Les Miserables: A Revolutionary Approach," and "The Original Masterwork: Victor Hugo's Les Miserables." Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.

Final Thoughts

"Les Miserables" faces the same unavoidable issues that most adaptations have to deal with. The huge number of major characters and the very long time frame of the narrative becomes a concern in telling a story for more or less two hours. But with acknowledging these understandable points, this picture remains commendable for its valiant attempt of reinventing its source material for the film medium. It doesn't completely succeed, but it has that genuinely epic sweep and undeniable emotional heft to allow itself to resonate with countless fans of the novel and the play.

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