Rarely does one have the chance to view a true masterpiece. Even more rare do ones who style themselves as critics admit that they’ve seen a masterpiece, allow themselves to be swept away by truly magnificent art. This Christmas, I was privileged to receive a present that far outstripped the cool new clothes or iPod I received that morning – a chance to experience an epic, moving, emotional journey played out on screen. I received the gift of a new favorite film of all time.
During the three hours I spent in the packed theater, I experienced a film like no other I’ve seen before. Amazing acting, beautiful singing, wonderful costume design and artistic cinematography that didn’t feel forced brought an old masterpiece of a story to life like never before.
Anne Hathaway actually endeared herself to me with he greatest performance of “I Dreamed A Dream” ever recorded. Not only this, but the song was delivered over a single shot, as were several others – truly remarkable. the power of long shots has long been forgotten in Hollywood, and I enjoyed the appropriate editing of Les Mis, fast and long, depending on the tempo, building around the story.
The other actors more than delivered also. Hugh Jackman was showstopping. One critic who obviously had a poor grasp of the theme commented that he needed be more dark and brooding, reflecting his past. The critic in question obviously missed the posters outside his screening – posters of Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean with the slogan “Freedom is Mine” printed underneath. Jackman did a wonderful job portraying the hero Valjean, living by mercy and satisfied by grace.
Russel Crowe did a wonderful job portraying the cold-as-steel, unrelenting Inspector Javert. He did surprisingly well singing, although not as strong as the others it fit his part. Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried as Marius and Cosette are both excellent as well. I thought Eddie had a bit of a strange look, but Mom called him “cute”.
If this wasn’t enough, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen brought down the house with their over-the-top, unforgettable performances. I’ve always loved Carter, and she delivers here. You hate the pair enough that they’re endeared to you. The perfect comedic villains.
If the cast, cinematography, music, and costumes weren’t enough, the story and theme alone would make this film my favorite. Like i mentioned above, my Mom took me Christmas day, and as we left she said something along the lines of “that’s the most Christian film I’ve ever seen! I wonder of Anne Hathaway could have gotten saved?”
She does not exaggerate the power of the story. Les Mis is an epic of the heart. Following a man set free by grace, and determined to live by a code of mercy, Jean Valjean, and his antagonist, the relentless agent of the law, Inspector Javert it touches on many aspects of what it means to be human along the way. I was in tears several times during the film, and if you don’t believe me, ask my mother.
Unfortunately, Christians aren’t as quick to give grace its chance. Critic Jeffrey Overstreet calls the film “preachy” and “overbearing”. The American Family Association gave the film a poor rating because of some of the material it deals with, and I even heard that one of my friends had called it “pornographic”.
Overstreet misses the fact as a critic that people come to the cinema to be entertained – to put aside disbelief for a few hours. Director Christopher Nolan said that the cinema is a place of “hope” in his statement released after the Aurora shooting in July. My screenwriting professor at Liberty University has told me and my class many times that people want to be fooled, that they buy a ticket wanting to be duped, to escape reality for a short time, and enjoy their popcorn. Les Mis does not exceed any limits in the pursuance of its theme – indeed, without using a single Bible verse it’s able to write a gospel story in the projector-light second only to that of Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. christian filmmakers were bested by Holywood, and should learn carefully.
Because Les Mis deals with reality. A reality that is very messed up, but one that is very real. One where a mother ends up resorting to prostitution to save her child. Is it clean? No. Is life clean? No. Christ himself sat among the filthy, unclean in the sense of the law and quite literally. If the AFA rated the Bible they’d have to give it an equally low rating for how unclean it is – it’s a story of thieves, adulterers, murderers… it tells how brothers sell their own, and rape their half-sister. It is a very very dirty story, but one about grace.
However, Les Mis is hardly “pornographic” – it’s only rated PG-13, so even a Liberty University student can see it without sneaking behind their RA’s back. It artfully and tastefully tells this epic of grace, and never is there any nudity.
I cannot give this film too much praise. It is the most Christian film I have ever seen. I have a hard time believing anything like this was possible in 2012 from a non-Christian studio, but sadly i doubt a Christian studio could have come close. Les Mis is the one film you must see if you never see another afterwards.
It shows true freedom in Christ, and how the law brings nothing but damnation.
It shows how earthly revolutions are nothing compared to the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of the heart.
And it shows the power of love. In its epilogue, this line stuck out to me:
And remember the truth that once was spoken /
To love another person is to see the face of God!
In conclusion, Les Mis is a solid, truthful, heart-changing film with the most beautiful musical performances, excellent execution in ever way, wonderful acting, and a message needed to be heard by all.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Les Mis is about the power of love. Love that made a priest buy a man his freedom. Love that drove a mother to desperate ends. Love that made a man give up his comfortable mayorship and factory, and go on the run, rescuing a little girl along the way. Love that gave a young man something to fight for. Love that gave a young girl something to hope for. Love that made a young woman sacrifice her life. Love that made an old man sacrifice everything. Love that drove a cold heart to its own destruction. And love that carried an old man home to the face of God.
I give Les Mis five stars in every category. I hope to see it again soon.