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July 10, 2013
Les Misérables Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
26/12/201224/4/2013UniversalTom Hooper
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1MHugh Jackman

THE MOVIE
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Russell Crowe as Javert in Les Misérables.

Musicals really aren't my favourite genre, in fact probably my least favourite when it comes to film. Why people need to sing to convey a message I'll never know - when I try it my wife tells me to shut up and talk normally. Anyway my interest in Les Misérables comes down to three main things - Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. Three of my favourite actors in one film, and as a result it became required viewing.

Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption—a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.

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Jean Valjean is forced to pick up the flag.
Prior to seeing this film I'd heard generally rave reviews for performances by Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway and there is absolutely no hesitation in my saying that they are exceptional. It must be said that Daniel Day-Lewis must have been exceptional as Lincoln to beat out Hugh Jackman for Best Actor Academy Award this year. Less praise was given to Russell Crowe, and while his vocal performance may not quite be as strong, or as varied, as Hugh's we loved him in this role which is so different to what we expect. It's moving out of that safe "drama/action" genre that sees him grow as an actor in this film.

There were of course other standout performances in Les Misérables . Amanda Seyfried as the adult Cosette puts in a fine performance, as does Isabelle Allen as the younger Cosette. The other real highlight though was seeing the husband and wife Inn keepers played by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. While they probably aren't as strong in their vocal performances, they certainly bring a wonderful comedic element to the film and their performance of 'Master of the House' is very entertaining.

While we struggled with the film (due to my general disliking of musicals as previously discussed), we also felt that at 158 minutes this films runtime is a little long. Sure, we understand people want all the songs in there, and cutting anything would be hard, but we would think that even fans would struggle with such a long film.

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Anne Hathaway in one of the best musical performances ever seen on film. Stunning.
Writing this review has actually been a very hard process for me. On the one hand I can see the greatness in this film, the acting and singing is stellar across the board, and the production values as good as we've ever seen. But this really isn't my thing. I almost universally hate films where people just break into song (with the exception of The Blues Brothers), and this film is 90% singing, so it's like watching a 2 hour 37 minute concert. It's not one which I would re watch too many times, BUT if musicals are your thing, there is absolutely no way you could be disappointed by this film.

VIDEO
It's actually becoming somewhat tiring to review Blu-Ray releases of modern films. Being transferred direct from a digital master where all the visual effects are done ensures a near flawless transfer, and that can be said here too. The AVC MPEG-4 is presented at the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and even from the outset when the film starts in deep water, and then with the prisoners hauling a ship into dry dock it's clear this is a quality transfer with deep colours handled perfectly. It's also the fine details that impress with absolutely clarity even on close-ups of characters faces - Anne Hathaway is one perfect example while singing 'I Dreamed a Dream' with every emotion coming across perfectly.

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Set design in Les Misérables is gorgeous.
AUDIO
Naturally with any film that features plenty of music the audio experience is key, and in no way is this disc a letdown. In fact it's an absolute sensational audio experience with one of the best lossless DTS-HD Master Audio tracks we've ever heard. The 7.1 mix has perfect audio prioritisation, and given that all the singing was performed, and recorded live with no post-production dubbing it's a sensational effort. The music is amazing, while the dialogue, which probably consists of no more of 20% of the voice work (with singing being the other 80%), also crystal clear.

Besides that primary English track the Les Misérables Blu-Ray contains both Spanish and Russian DTS 5.1 tracks encoded at 768kbps. We checked these tracks out and they were certainly pretty impressive overall and shouldn't disappoint. Also included is a much less impressive English Descriptive Video Service in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192kbps - why not include surround sound audio here if the disc has the room for it?

Subtitles are provided in many languages including English, Spanish, Russian, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Czech, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Portuguese, Thai, Arabic, and Traditional Mandarin. We sampled the English track a few times through the film and think they'll get the job done if you need subtitles.

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Hugh Jackman in the performance of his life as Jean Valjean.
EXTRAS
This Blu-Ray starts off with some advertisements including Les Misérables Soundtrack (0:31), Les Misérables in Concert (1:06), Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall (1:01), Hyde Park on Hudson (2:33), Mr Selfridge (1:01). Fortunately these are skippable if you wish. There are though several dedicated, and impressive features, on this disc.

Les Misérables: A Revolutionary Approach (1:03:54/HD): This is split up into four parts and gives an extensive look at the creation of this film. These parts include "The Stars of Les Miserables" (11:13) which, as the title suggests, looks at the cast for the film and why they were chosen, "The West End Connection" (8:23) which focuses on the actors from theatrical backgrounds cast in the film including a wonderful moment when Samantha Barks learns about getting the role of Eponine in the film, "Les Miserables On Location" (9:12) focuses on the various sets and location shoots used for the film, "Creating the Perfect Paris" (3:53) is a short look at creating the sets for Paris, "Battle at the Barricade" (4:44) which looks at the creation of the barricade and "Les Misérables Singing Live" (23:23) which is the longest segment in this documentary, and focuses on the live singing for the film with plenty of interviews from the participants, and on-set footage. Overall, a great documentary.

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Sacha Baron Cohen is rather amusing, and entertaining, as Thénardier.
The Original Masterwork: Victor Hugo's Les Misérables (11:11/HD): This featurette looks at the French author behind the musical and where his inspirations for the story come from. Concise, but very interesting.

Commentary with Director Tom Hooper: Despite running solo on this commentary, and unlike so many other solo efforts, Tom Hooper provides a continual discussion about many aspects of the film from the acting, to the sets, to the CG and the live singing. There really is plenty of detail in this commentary and it's definitely worth a listen if you're a fan of the film or even interested in production of films.

OVERALL
Les Misérables is a superb, often stunning, film, with some of the most memorable theatrical music numbers ever heard. The film has been given an exceptional transfer to Blu-Ray and comes with a couple of fantastic extras too. There's no reason not to pick this title up now.

Review By: Dave Warner

THE MOVIE
8/10
THE VIDEO
9/10
THE AUDIO
10/10
THE EXTRAS
5/10
OVERALL
8/10

Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Universal Sony. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.