Tom Hooper doesn’t kid around. As a follow-up to his Oscar®-winning The King’s Speech, he could have played it safe and done another smart, funny period piece or a family drama – or any number of equally small independent films. Instead, he chose to adapt the hit musical Les Miserables to film – and, despite some pretty obvious flaws, did, indeed, create an uplifting Christmas release. In spite of those flaws, Les Miz is one of the best film-going experiences of the year.
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Les Misérables is one of the most popular and longest running musicals of all time. In the DC area alone it has grossed over $53 million dollars in its numerous runs. On Broadway it has earned over $800 million dollars. Based on the Victor Hugo classic (At 1,400 pages it is one of the longest books ever written) it is a universal, moving and emotional story about redemption against all odds.
Lots of new footage and – waddaya know – Russell Crowe really can sing!
Les Miserables opens on Christmas Day.
I can’t even begin to chart the historical inaccuracies of Robin Hood [which are the only things that Ridley Scott’s bloated origin story has in common with those Robins who have gone before] which makes all of the film’s efforts to evoke a real time and place kind of pointless. So Robin Hood is working from a negative sum to start.
When the murders of two men – one because his route to deliver a pizza made him a witness – and the death of a congressman’s assistant turn out to be linked, the congressman’s affair with the dead woman comes to light. This puts his investigation into PrivateCorp, providers of mercenary aid in the War on Terror at risk.
Congressman Stephen Collins’ [Ben Affleck] affair with Sonya Baker [Maria Thayer] is even more ways than just the cheating husband aspect – it pulls his former college roommate, and veteran investigative reporter for the Washington Globe, Cal McAffrey [Russell Crowe] into the mix – and McAffrey will do just about anything for a story. Circumstances dictate that McAffrey is teamed up with Globe political blogger Della Frye [Rachel McAdams] – despite his low regard for blogs in general.
As McAffrey and Frye work the story, they are constantly badgered by their editor-in-chief, Cameron Lynne [the always impressive Helen Mirren]. The paper has new owners and they want to sell papers more than they want quality journalism.
State of Play is adapted from a six-hour British series and, as such, is probably better than it has any right to be. It’s been awhile since I saw the BBC mini-series, so I couldn’t tell you what was pruned for the theatrical film, but even so, it feels like there’s enough material here for at least two movies. There’s so much information in every frame that it’s virtually impossible for anyone [short of Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent] to pick up on some of the most important clues.
For a script that has undergone three rewrites [including a pass by Duplicity’s Tony Gilroy], State of Play really has a singular voice. Chalk that up to director Kevin MacDonald, who propels the film and is very good at creating suspense [a sequence where McAffrey is stalked in an apartment building underground parking lot is particularly well executed]. Somehow MacDonald manages to keep all the various arcs straight and, except for feeling a bit overstuffed, it is a solid, well-crafted thriller. It might even provoke some debate on the necessity for maintaining quality journalism – both in the print and online media.
Final Grade: B+