So...I know I've seen this and I get the impression some of you out there have, too. I'm not terribly worried about spoilers given the rumors that this is based on a musical which is based on a book, so we all probably have an idea of what's going to happen going into it. But you probably should know well enough to avoid post-threads for movies you haven't seen if you're sensitive to spoilers, so there's that, too.
I'll be blunt: Tom Hooper sucks. Watching this I can only be amazed at his luck in winning for The King's Speech two years ago, but of course he also showed a measure of shrewdness with that film-- he was smart enough to just put Wright, Firth, and Bonham-Carter in a room, shoot them with a wide lens, and do nothing of interest with his camera. And that film wound up being an entertaining, light, lovely little acting showcase for a group of very talented performers (and I'll admit that I favored BC's work the most because it was just nice to see her not play a bug-eyed twitchy crazy lady with messy hair for once in her fucking lifetime).
So, now we enter Les Miserables. And now we see what happens when Hooper tries to get clever with his camera. Shit happens. The guy has no idea how to frame anything, which is baffling if only because the lion's share of the film's shots contain a single actor singing their hearts out in one long take. I don't know how a person of reasonable competence can fuck that up, but Hooper fucks that up. Actors get the top of their heads cut off, or they get stuffed into a corner of the frame, and there's no reason for it other than Hooper's ineptitude. His film looks terrible. Apart from composition, the camera hovers and shakes like it's being shot by your drunken uncle at a family reunion, and if he's not doing Extreme Close-Ups, he's doing swooping overhead shots. That's it. That's his whole repertoire. Like I said-- baffling. And that's to say nothing of his aversion to color or his very, very cliche make-up choices. (You can tell a person's social class by their teeth. It's obnoxious.)
Somehow, he also manages to erase tension or stakes from a story that's tailor-made with both. Javert never feels like that much of a threat despite his persistence; Thenardiers come off as nuisances and vultures, but nothing all that dangerous. I've never seen the play but I've read the book and these are very light, fluffy versions of these characters. That might not translate for others but it bugged the hell out of me that I could never for a second respect these characters as heavies. (Also: please, everyone, stop fucking casting Helena Bonham-Carter in the aforementioned "bug-eyed twitchy crazy lady with messy hair" role in every damn movie ever. She really is better than that. Stop.)
The good: Anne Hathaway kills it when she sings "I Dreamed a Dream", but that's actually unhealthy for the rest of the film because I kept waiting for anything to match the high that sequence represents. She's amazing in that scene. And that's accepting how badly shot it is. She's so good that all of the emotion and power of her performance busts out of Hooper's terrible cinematography (I say "Hooper" because I doubt that Danny Cohen had much say in how the film was shot because he isn't a terrible cinematographer) and transcends. You will at least get choked up watching her belt this one out. You'll also probably have a ball with "Master of the House" and Sacha Baron Cohen in general, but Thenardier isn't all that prevalent in the story. "Master" is another high the film fails to reach again.
Frankly, the cast at large is quite good-- even Crowe, who appears to only be capable of singing a half dozen notes. But I'm not expecting Broadway-level singing from the film, because we're talking about two different stages; I'm expecting people to act through singing instead of striving to provide the most technically perfect oratory effect possible. In the end the cast carry the whole picture. It's Hooper who fucks it up.
And yet Les Mis will probably win all the Oscars ever because it's Les Mis and it's Hooper, and it'll only deserve whatever acting nods it gets. I may have an aneurysm if this receives a serious nomination for any technical awards.