For those of you who aren't fans of musicals, the idea of going to see one set in the 19th Century against the backdrop of the French Revolution with a title that literally translates as "The Miserable" probably isn't going to help you change your mind. But this is a musical unlike any other you've ever seen. Firstly, unlike Hairspray or Mamma Mia, they don't knock out a tune every ten minutes or so and then talk normally during the down time between show-stoppers; almost every single line of this movie is sung. Secondly, unlike Rock Of Ages or Chicago, the actors aren't concerned with miming along while looking good and fixing how they sound in post-production; every single song was sung live on set, with every single vein-popping high note worn proudly like a badge of honour.
The story is of newly-freed prisoner Jean Valjean (Jackman), who vows to start a new life under a new name, all the while being relentlessly pursued by policeman Javert (Crowe). Valjean's chance meeting with the heartbreaking Fantine (Hathaway) has him agree to raise her daughter Cosette (eventually played by Seyfried), who, when she grows up, falls in love with Marius (Redmayne), a man at the centre of the French Revolution.
The acting is universally fantastic, if not the singing; Jackman and Hathaway are stirring and heart-breaking, and while Crowe gives it his best shot, every one of his songs sounds like they're being sung an angry albeit fairly talented karaoke singer. The scope of the movie feels both epic and intimate, and the production design is astounding, but after the jaw-dropping opening scene of several hundred men dragging a battleship into a wave-pounded dock, the later scenes of the revolution seem oddly small scaled. There is some comedy respite to be found in Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter's pickpocketing couple, but for the most part this movie is dictated by Jackman and Hathaway's sorrowful lives, and later, by Seyfried and Redmayne's far less interesting love story.
But all in all, this will all come down to whether you can sit through two and a half hours of people singing at each other. If that sounds like a great night out, then this is absolutely the movie for you. But if not, despite its lack of camp-ness and dance numbers, as well as it's abundance of amazing performances, there's probably still not enough here to change your mind. This is still very much a musical; people fall instantly and insanely in love at first glance, and a policeman never stops chasing a guy who stole a loaf of bread nearly thirty years ago.