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Les Miserables (1998) Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: English & Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1;
  • Subtitles: English, French, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 134 minutes
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Digital Copy: UltraViolet
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: December 11, 2012
  • List Price: $19.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]


Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables provides an insider’s view of 19th century French society. A popular source for the film industry, this novel has received nearly fifty versions for large and small screens.  Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson) is paroled after serving nearly twenty years for stealing a loaf of bread. He next pilfers silverware from Bishop Myriel’s (Peter Vaughan) home, is arrested but the bishop exonerates him if Valjean vows to become a “new” man.  Some years later, Valjean, now wealthy and mayor of a small town, has changed his identity. He befriends a prostitute, Fantine (Uma Thurman) who has a young daughter, Cosette, being kept by unprincipled innkeepers, the Thenardiers (Jon Kenny and Gillian Hanna). Valjean’s path crosses that of Inspector Javert (Geoffrey Rush) who was one of his prison guards. When Fantine is arrested, Valjean overrules the inspector and thus creates a lifelong enemy.  Valjean promises Fantine that he will care for Cosette. Fantine eventually succumbs to her chronic illness. At the trial of a prisoner alleged to be Jean Valjean, the real Valjean comes to his defense by unmasking his true identity.  Javert now goes in pursuit of Valjean who must flee to avoid arrest.

Years have passed, Valjean has taken Cosette away from the Thenardiers. They move to Paris, and Cosette (Clair Danes) has become an adolescent who is being educated in a convent. She meets and falls in love with Marius (Hans Matheson), a student involved with an underground movement to overthrow the government. When Valjean finds out about the romance between Cosette and Marius, he makes efforts to support it.  As for Javert, his pursuit of Valjean leads him into the teeth of the revolution and he is captured at a barricade. Valjean prevents Javert’s execution and frees the inspector. Later, Marius is seriously wounded and as Valjean attempts to carry him to safety, he is arrested by Javert. However, Javert cannot take Jean Valjean to prison and as a final resolution of his inner conflict, the policeman throws himself into the Seine river and drowns.

This is a relatively concise adaptation with a strong cast and well-paced direction. In the interest of keeping the dramatic flow going, there have been numerous characters and scenes omitted from Hugo’s expansive text. Further, some names and roles have been changed. Speaking of alterations in the characters, Marius becomes much more prominent in the revolution than Hugo had portrayed him, while Valjean is made out to be illiterate (which he was not in the book). Even more important, the film does not end with Valjean’s death.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]


The picture is generally crisp with good colors, although darker night scenes yield a bit of their details. The cinematography is superb and we get an excellent period representation in both costumes and sets. There is very little motion artifact.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Basil Poledouris has created an atmospheric score that effectively underpins the action. Dialogue is well reproduced. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack has plenty of depth, particularly in the scene when the revolutionaries disrupt Lamarck’s funeral procession.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:1/5]

There is a paucity of extras, specifically “A First Look at Les Misérables.” A 3:36 minute “behind the scenes” that appears to be a glorified trailer.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Les Misérables is a story that towers above than any of its individual characters.  It tells us about the paths from prison to freedom, from poverty to wealth, from oppression to liberty and the strength of the bonds that tie us together. As noted, there have been many screen versions of Victor Hugo’s unquestioned masterwork. Most have been flawed by casting, script, or faithfulness to the story. This 1998 BD may not be the last word in the realization of this titanic novel but it is provides a wonderful vision of how it makes sense as a film.  Abridged, yes, dramatic liberties, yes, great cast, yes, great direction by Bille August, yes, all in all a terrific watch.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B009H3LOOC[/amazon-product]

Purchase Les Miserables on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Les Misérables (1998)

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B009H3LOOC[/amazon-product]

Purchase Les Miserables on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Les Misérables (1998)

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1.5/5]

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