Title – Les Misérables (2019)
Director – Ladj Ly (feature debut)
Cast – Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djebril Zonga, Issa Perica
Plot – Moving to Paris to join a special crime unit focusedaround the working class suburbs of Montfermeil in Paris, Brigadier Stéphane Ruiz (Bonnard) quickly finds himself in over his head as he and his new comrades look to diffuse a powder keg situation occurring around them.
“Respect? People around here just fear you”
Review by Eddie on 08/12/2020
Just in case there was any confusion, this Les Misérables has no singing Russell Crowe’s or period costumes but is a film that shares the same power and humanity as Victor Hugo’s famed novel that has spawned countless stage and screen adaptations.
Nominated at this years Academy Awards in the best Foreign Language film category and announcing the arrival of a very special directional talent in the form of Ladj Ly in the process, Les Misérables is an incendiary and white knuckle thriller that is set in the director’s childhood neighborhood of Montfermeil in Paris, a melting pot of different cultures and beliefs that are waiting to explode around a small team of specialist police officers who patrol these streets in hopes of maintaining order.
Based off his own short film of the same name and starring its three lead actors Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti and Djebril Zonga, this version of Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables rarely lets up for a single minute as we follow Bonnard’s new to the team Ruiz whose been partnered up with Manenti and Zonga’s veteran officers who know the streets they roam like the back of their hands and whose fragile state of minds and humanity comes to the forefront around a seriously dangerous situation that starts around, of all things, a small lion cub.
Filmed in a virtuoso manner that places the viewer right in the thick of the action as we are introduced to these mean streets where the working class, the youth and the criminally minded clash on a daily basis, Les Misérables is an electrifying watch as it ramps up to near unbearable levels of tension as the films various characters converge in unpredictable and confronting ways.
Wonderfully played by its main cast that includes a hugely impressive performance from young actor Issa Perica as the tales important figure Issa, Les Misérables puts many Hollywood police dramas/thrillers to shame as it bounces around the locales of Montfermeil and establishes all of its key players with grounded backgrounds and motivations, building a world and story that feels cut from real life, a tale that comes from the heart and experience of a lived in life bought forward in a stunning manner through film.
Final Say –
Not the Les Misérables many know and love but one that will hopefully find an audience just the same, Ladj Ly’s stunning feature debut is one of the finest police thrillers of the last decade and an insightful look at modern day Paris also. An absolute must-watch.
4 1/2 kebab shops out of 5