Les Misrables: A Grand, Romantic Alternative to Game of Thrones

There are no musical numbers in PBS’s Les Miserables , but that doesn’t mean this new six-part “Masterpiece” miniseries–produced by the BBC, and taking Victor Hugo’s acclaimed 1862 novel as its direct source–doesn’t sing a rousing( figurative) ballad of angry men. An exceptional adjustment of its classic substance, it resounds with nerve, repugnance and intricacy, eschewing revisionist prospers to reliably recount its fateful 19 th-century saga about man’s darkest impulses–and, likewise, his capacity for redemption.

The price of autonomy is high-flown in Les Miserables , and so too is the cost of transformative change, both personal and political. That topic is front-and-center throughout this latest take on Hugo’s tale, which evades massive alterations in favor of a straightforward and arousing approaching. Precisely to be prepared by Andrew Davies, previously responsible for the BBC’s Middlemarch , Vanity Fair , Pride and Prejudice , Bleak House and War and Peace ( as well as the original House of Cards and Bridget Jones’ Diary ), and competently helmed by Tom Shankland, it abridges little of crucial importance. As a outcome, it allows Hugo’s potent human drama–and sterling performances from Dominic West, David Oyelowo and Lily Collins–to carry it from wretched start to inspiring conclusion.

Premiering April 14 on PBS, after which it will be contained( beginning May 20) to binge in its entirety on the Masterpiece Prime Video Channel on Amazon, Davies and Shankland’s series streamlines its story’s chronology, opening on a June 1815 battlefield where, with Napoleon’s forces in ruins, Thenardier( Adeel Akhtar) are an attempt to cheat the corpse of Colonel Pontmercy( Henry Lloyd-Hughes ). When Pontmercy turns out to be alive, Thenardier pretends to be saving him–thus earning from Pontmercy “peoples lives” obligation. Meanwhile in Paris, royalist Monsieur Gillenormand( David Bradley) curses his Bonapartist son Pontmercy to anyone who will listen, including his grandson Marius. And in the Toulon prison hulks, a convict identified Jean Valjean( West) strives to finish his 19 -year sentence( for stealing a loaf of bread) under the tyrannical picket of Javert( Oyelowo )– two men whose routes are destined to repeatedly cross over the course of the ensuing decades.

” Men like us have only two alternatives: to prey on society or to guard it. You opted the former, I choice the latter ,” Javert tells Valjean, thereby establishing his notion that one’s inherent good/ evil nature is set at birth, as well as Les Miserables ‘ central conflict. Anyone who’s speak Hugo’s novel or ensure the smash Broadway musical are all aware that considerable suffering awaits both, as Valjean will respond to life’s cruelty by stealing candlesticks from a Bishop( Derek Jacobi) and, worse, a coin from young Petit-Gervais( Henry Lawfull ), and Javert will fume over his inability to catch Valjean. Misery will also befall Fantine( Collins ), a young seamstress who’s left with child by a heartless aristocratic playboy and, to support herself and her baby, will leave her daughter Cosette in the care of the dastardly Thenardier and his wife( newly minted Best Actress Oscar winner Olivia Colman ), whose hunger for money–and fondness for cheating suckers out of it–is matched simply by their abusiveness.

Les Miserables doesn’t mess with what works, and at six-plus hours, it has the room is necessary for do justice to its every occurrence and emotional turmoil. While a few minor factors are condensed or abandoned, Davies’ script is true to Hugo’s tome to its implementation of basic story particulars and rousing intent( a cornier columnist might say that the beat of its nerve echoes the beating of its narrative drum, but I digress …). Fantine’s misfortune and degradation are depicted in harrowing detail, and made all the more moving by Collins’ evocation of the doomed girl’s initial liveliness and innocence. Her agonizing deathbed incident is one of the serial’ high points, and thankfully, the show’s urgency doesn’t flag after she’s succumbed and the focus alterations to the older Cosette( Ellie Bamber) and her romance with Marius( Josh O’Connor ), now a law student “re thinking of” was participating in an impending uprising against the Crown.

This Les Miserables flirts with definitiveness, communicating with passion and subtlety the arduous conflicts of Valjean and Javert, the former trying to prove( to himself, and communities) that a guy can be what he wants–for better or worse–and the latter convinced that such a notion is fantasy. West’s magnificent performance produces the lane, mingling hope and sect with panic and self-doubt to brilliant impression, and he’s nearly must be accompanied by Oyelowo, whose Javert is less a titanic monster than a small, bird-dog, heartless despotic being used by a desire to “win” by capturing Valjean, which in turn would substantiate his cynical worldview. West and Oyelowo make their iconic personas not mere representations of themes but living, breathing, fallible antagonists, and they do so with such dexterous skill that it’s hard not to be wipe up in their respective predicaments.

As you may have realise by now, this Les Miserables casts person or persons of color as Javert, and it does similarly with Eponine, giving full play to Erin Kellyman. Those moves follow in the footsteps of a few stage productions( including , notably, 2014′ s Broadway rendition ), and the objective is, unsurprisingly, of no appreciable result, except to demonstrate that Hugo’s attributes are characterized not by their appearings but, rather, by their social marginalization and/ or harassed internal circumstances. If there’s a shortcoming here, it’s Shankland’s direction, which endeavor for, and occasionally reaches, a sense of grand scale, yet as with the climactic barricade showdown between military personnel and revolutionaries, sometimes feels a little bit visually cramped. That’s exacerbated by his preference for close-ups, yet unlike with Tom Hooper’s in-your-face 2012 musical cinema, those turn out to be beneficial for his superstars, including a appropriately nasty Colman and Akhtar as the Thenardiers.

You’ll be forgiven for involuntarily humming some of the musical’s most well known songs during Les Miserables ‘ key times. Still, Davies and Shankland’s version–scored, mournfully, by John Murphy–stands on its own as a rich, intricate portrait of sadnes, guilt, rebellion and redemption. It exists in the gritty, grimy slime of the real world, where kindness and mercy are in short supply( especially for women ), and brutish nastiness is on the agenda. Furthermore, it’s loyal to the dense profundity of Hugo’s work, whose be informed about revolutionary individual and social movements( motivated by God and mortal alike) demonstrates to be as timely and poignant as ever.

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