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Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty, Hyde Park On Hudson


February 2013

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Les Miserables
Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway
You have to admire director Tom Hooper – who turned The King’s Speech into a gold-plated standard-bearer – for mounting such an honourable, atmospheric and epic version of the Boublil-Schönberg musical smash about amour and revolution in 19th-century France. Awash in plaintive emotion, Hooper’s Les Mis is an intense bombardment of heartfelt crooning and crumple-faced close-ups. But no question: his bombastic approach does become repetitive. There’s no faulting the performances, though. Even Crowe scores as unyielding lawman Javert, although Jackman and Hathaway are the awards bait as convictturned- saint Valjean and ill-fated Fantine. Hathaway’s raw rendition of I Dreamed a Dream will require mops in cinemas. The decision to have the actors sing live on set rather than pre-record and mime is smart for performance but dilutes the beauty of many of the songs, especially as Jackman’s voice keeps vanishing into reedy registers. You may want to plug in the original London-cast soundtrack afterwards to remind yourself of Les Mis’s true glory.

Django Unchained
Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio
Quentin Tarantino should have trimmed the fat off his flagrantly flamboyant (and nearly three-hour long) Blaxploitation western, but it seems he was having too much fun portraying the grislier horrors inflicted on America’s black slaves (Mandingo fights! Punishment coffins! Death by dog pack!) Amid the atrocities, he’s also crafted his most satiating narrative in years, with Foxx magnetic as liberated slave-turned-bounty hunter Django and DiCaprio bringing scenery-slurping relish to the role of a deranged plantation owner.

Zero Dark Thirty
Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Jennifer Ehle
Hoovering up critics’ prizes like a greedy drugsniffer, this chronicle of the decade-long hunt to find and kill Osama bin Laden is sensationally gripping, following Chastain’s CIA agent as she loses her queasiness at torture techniques like, you know, waterboarding, and makes locating the al-Qaeda leader her hell-bent mission. The Hurt Locker combo Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal don’t comment on the issues, merely delivering a bravura depiction of the sleuthing, surveillance and final SEALs mission that went into felling the West’s bogeyman.

Hyde Prk On Hudson
Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams
In the face of brasher awards contenders, this is almost defiantly gentle and dialled-down, even as it unmasks polio-stricken president Franklin D Roosevelt’s (Murray) heretofore unknown rep as a lusty old goat, with scads of mistresses and a liking for handjobs in cars. Its best moments come whenever Samuel West and Olivia Colman are on screen as stuttering George VI and his brusquely comic queen, visiting FDR to woo his backing for World War Two.

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