In 1862, Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables, a novel that would go on to become one of the most respected books of all time. Ladj Ly’s film of the same name seeks to invoke the spirit of Hugo’s novel, and while the film may not ingrain itself into the larger canon of all time, it is film as strong as it is terse.
Which is to say that the film is quite good, and also very tense. From its opening credits set amidst France’s 2018 World Cup Victory, to the eventual (and cleverly integrated) barricades, this is a thrilling film that paints a picture of a nation on the edge. Ly aims to find the face of a nation. He succeeds, and the result is devastating.
Earnest cop Stéphane (Damien Bonnard) joins his corrupt and disillusioned partners Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada (Djebril Zonga) in patrolling the streets. They struggle to keep the peace amongst several gangs and a large collection of diverse youths. One such child is Issa (Issa Perica), a young man who empathizes for animals. When the worlds between the various groups collide, the sparks are destined to fly in the most incendiary of fashions.
Shot with a frenetic handheld style, and on 16mm film stock, Les Misérables is a beautiful and deeply gripping film. The twists and turns come hot and heavy. La Haine is an obvious influence here. This however, is a powerful film that can easily stand on its own.
- Release Date: 9/5/2019