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One of the biggest musicals of all time gets the silver screen run it deserves – the all-star cast, the faithfully inventive approach, plus epic cinematic production design and values. It almost seems churlish, then, to say it won’t be for all.

If you love the musical’s protagonist Jean Valjean – the 19th-century French prisoner who violates his parole to right a wrong, while evading dogged police inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) – you’ll be blown away by Hugh Jackman’s stunning portrayal.

If you love the tunes, you’ll be in raptures over Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen’s Master Of The House comedy routine. And if you’re a King’s Speech fan, you’ll love what its director Tom Hooper has conjured with his follow-up. 

Refusing to adjust the global hit musical’s sung-through nature for Hollywood is bold, and it’s an approach that works fantastically well. The tunes combine with Tinseltown’s sense of scale (production design, locations, FX work) to knockout effect.

Cinema’s close-up performances add to the stage’s sing-it-to-the-back convention to make both a profoundly moving story and performance, where the lyric-led narrative is matched with intimate human moments, too.

It doesn’t always manage to take things up the notch you imagine it might with the benefit of a studio budget (battle scenes still carry a stagey feel) and at over two-and-a-half hours, the pacing is occasionally off. But by the time Valjean and long-time adversary Javert put their decades-long torment to rest, it’s tough not to be a convert to the musical saga that’s wowed the world. 

Good for: Seeing that a big screen musical does not have to mean Mamma Mia!

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe |  12A | 157mins | Out January 11



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