Without a doubt, you should see this production that works on multiple levels. For me, it is primarily a story of sin, redemption, grace and hope. The entire narrative is diffused with spirituality. The film is set against the backdrop of post-French revolution France and a student led rebellion features prominently in the second half of the movie.
The signature number, "I Dreamed a Dream" is well known. It was sung by Susan Boyle on Britain Has Talent. Most do not appreciate the context in which this song is sung and Anne Hathaway does a brilliant job in delivering it in the film. Following her descent into prostitution, she hammers out this gut wrenching and moving song of despair, hope and finally resignation. In Hathaway's hand, you understand the power of the song. This number will surely go down in cinema history as a high water marker in the history of musicals.
Hugh Jackman is perfect as the hero Jean Valjean. The director commentary below gives you a glimpse of his range and a taste of what the film is like. Jackman lost and gained weight for the movie and delivers the kindness and compassion of Valjean marvelously. You see his transformation most clearly from hardened, world weary criminal to the suffering servant in two pivotal scenes; the one below and the one with Cosette. Valjean's character is one of self sacrificial love.
Regrettably, another key figure in the musical and film is Javert the inspector who loves justice and the letter of the law. He is one of my favourites in the musical. He would be easy to be typecast as villain but he is far more complicated. His signature song, "Stars" gives a glimpse to his character. He sees the world as chaos and the Lord filling it with order and light through justice. He sees his mission as delivering that justice dispassionately. Russel Crowe does not do the role full justice. He is not conflicted enough nor does he exhibit the kind of core that the music requires. His voice is tentative and a bit scratchy.
Surprisingly, my two least favourite characters, Marius and Cosette are among the best singers in the musicals. Their voices, particularly, Cosette, is a pleasure to listen to.
Finally, at the top of my list is the character of Eponine, forever "friendzoned". Her signature song of unrequited love "On My Own" is among my favourites and it is delivered with full force in the film. I admire her character and she displays, like Valjean, a pure love albeit of a different kind. Her love is tinged with suffering but it is hers and she owns it completely. Great character! She appears at the end of the musical (no spoiler here but for those who have seen the musical you know the part I am referring to) but not in this film which I found disappointing.
To be sure, there are some uneven, choppy pieces but it was intended to be a film and musical. If you want pure singing, purchase the anniversary compilation or view it on You Tube. It is a movie that is "sung through" and it is unique in that the actors are actually singing and not lip syncing as they are acting. As a result you see the lungs quiver and it gives a unique feel to the experience.
Don't delay. Take in this experience and let the music wash over you and the transformative themes move you!