Les Misérables (1998) starring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, Claire Danes, Hans Matheson, John McGlynn, Shane Hervey directed by Bille August Movie Review

Les Misérables (1998)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables (1998)

Neeson Fears the Rush

I've never read Victor Hugo's novel "Les Misérables", I've never seen a stage production of it and until today I had never even watched one of the numerous movie adaptations. About the only thing I knew of it was Susan Boyle singing "I Dream a Dream" from one of the musical versions for her "Britain's Got Talent" audition. So having sat down to watch the 1998 version of "Les Misérables" with no knowledge of what even the storyline was I can say I was surprised, not only by the engrossing story but also by the production. Maybe those who have a greater knowledge and appreciation of "Les Misérables" may not be so impressed but for those who like me are "Les Misérables" virgins this version is a good starting point.

I'm not going to try and surmise what happens in "Les Misérables" because firstly you cannot do this story which spans many years justice with just a few lines and in a way if you don't know what happens it is more interesting. And because I have only just popped my "Les Misérables", cherry to crudely put it, I can't tell you how true to Hugo's original story this version is. What I will say from the moment we meet a rough looking Jean Valjean as a priest gives him a chance, through his various encounters with Inspector Javert right through to the final scenes and the credits appearing it is engrossing.

Geoffrey Rush as Inspector Javert in Les Misérables (1998)

Why is this version of "Les Misérables" engrossing? Well firstly there is the storyline but second there is director Bille August's delivery off it because in truth this version is a well paced exciting drama. It never becomes bogged down in trying to be high brow and overly authentic preferring to be rousing with high moments of drama and a need to keep things going. That maybe why this version ended up appealing so much to me because rather than trying to look like some epic period drama we have a movie which is all about the excitement, about Jean Valjean out smarting Inspector Javert.

Now again I haven't got the foggiest how authentic the characters are but both Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean and Geoffrey Rush as Inspector Javert deliver interesting characters. I say interesting because their motivations are easy to understand and in the case of Neeson it is easy to get behind his Jean Valjean. The rest of the cast are just as good from Uma Thurman as Fantine to Claire Danes as the grown up Cosette.

What this all boils down to is that for me this 1998 version of "Les Misérables" was entertaining and much more entertaining than I anticipated. I don't know how authentic it is, maybe it isn't a good adaptation of the book but the pacing and style is perfect as an introduction to the story.