"Les Misérables" is maybe an unfortunate title for this electric thriller that will confuse viewers who are expecting to see Jean Valjean and a few song and dance numbers. But in telling a more modern story, themes of inequality, class oppression and street-level rage eerily feel like echoes from Victor Hugo's classic novel, and send home the message that the more things change, the more things stay the same.
"Les Misérables" is now an Oscar-nominated foreign film, and France's official selection for consideration. It stars Damien Bonnard as a new cop on an anti-crime force in Paris, and through his fresh eyes we're able to witness the disconnects between the poverty-stricken and those in power. When one of his partners goes a bit too far, the act looks to have been video-taped by a drone, controlled by a young boy living in the streets. The cops look to track down the drone and the boy so the act can't be made public. All the tinder is there, a bit too close to the powder keg, and these cops throw out a few sparks.
It's a riveting, raw and shocking journey that escalates and evolves along the way, as do the viewer's sympathies toward the different characters. It culminates in a final act that is both jarring and eye-opening.
"Les Misérables" may get over-looked by the Academy being in the same category as the shoe-in winner "Parasite," but it's a film worth watching, and one that transcends language.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller, Foreign.
Run Time: 1 hour 42 minutes.
Starring: Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djibril Zonga, Issa Perica.
Co-Written and Directed by Ladj Ly (feature-film directorial debut).
"Les Misérables" is in theaters on Friday, January 17th, 2020.
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