After serving a lengthy prison sentence, Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson) turns his life around after an act of kindness opens his eyes, becoming a beloved mayor of a French town. A policeman, Javert (Geoffrey Rush), who was a prison guard when Valjean was locked up, has a vendetta against him and tries to denounce him as a criminal despite a lack of evidence. Spanning several decades, the story of Javert and Valjeans rivalry is set against the backdrop of post-Revolution French society.
Les Miserables is a 1998 film adaptation of Victor Hugos 1862 novel of the same name, directed by Bille August. It stars Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, and Claire Danes.
As in the original novel, the storyline follows the adult life of Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson), an ex-convict (paroled following 19 years of hard labor, for stealing bread) pursued by police Inspector Javert (Geoffrey Rush). It was filmed at Barrandov Studios in Prague.
Jean Valjean, a Frenchman imprisoned for stealing bread, must flee a police officer named Javert. The pursuit consumes both men's lives, and soon Valjean finds himself in the midst of the student revolutions in France.
Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson), a man arrested for stealing bread nineteen years earlier, is released on parole. When no one is willing to allow a convict to stay the night, Bishop Myriel (Peter Vaughan), kindly welcomes him into his home. Valjean explains to Myriel that sleeping in a real bed will make him a new man. In the night, Valjean, interrupted by Myriel while stealing his silverware, strikes him and flees. When the police arrest Valjean, Myriel tells them that the silverware was a gift and scolds Valjean for failing to take his candlesticks as well. Myriel then reminds Valjean that he is to become a new man.
Nine years later, Valjean is now a wealthy industrialist and a mayor. Fantine (Uma Thurman), a single mother working at Valjeans factory, is fired from when her manager learns she has had a daughter out of wedlock. Valjean is too preoccupied with the arrival of Inspector Javert (Geoffrey Rush), who previously served as a guard at the prison in which Valjean was held. Fantine, in desperate need of money to pay the extortionate demands of the Thenardiers for looking after her daughter Cosette, turns to prostitution. Javert starts to suspect that the Mayor and Valjean are the same person. Fantine is attacked by some customers, and when she retaliates, Javert beats and arrests her. Valjean insists on her release and she is let go.
Valjean nurses Fantine back, and promises Fantine that she will have her daughter back. However, the Thenardiers continue to extort more money from Valjean and Fantine on accounts of Fantines daughter being ill. Later, Valjean receives word that another man (John McGlynn) is mistaken as being him and is about to be rearrested. Valjean arrives at court where the man is being tried and reveals his identity that he is the real Valjean. Valjean then returns home and finds Fantine deathly ill. Before she dies, Valjean promises Fantine that he will raise her daughter as his own. Javert arrives at Valjeans home to arrest both him and Fantine, and Fantine dies suddenly from shock and illness. Angry, Valjean beats and knocks out Javert and he escapes and flees the community. Valjean eventually finds and rescues Cosette from the Thenardiers, the corrupt innkeepers who were supposed to care for her, but are actually abusing and enslaving her. Both Valjean and Cosette finally make it to Paris where they start a new life together as father and daughter, cloistered within a religious convent.
Ten years later, they leave the convent, and Cosette (Claire Danes), now a nineteen-year-old teenager, strongly falls romantically in love with a revolutionist, Marius (Hans Matheson). Meanwhile Javert is now undercover as an insurrectionist trying to undermine the organization to which Marius belongs. In an attempt to finally arrest Valjean, Javert is captured by Marius and is brought to the barricades as a prisoner to be executed. Valjean journeys to the barricades himself when he learns how much Cosette and Marius love each other, intending to convince Marius to return to Cosette. When the soldiers shoot and kill Gavroche (Shane Hervey), a young boy allied with the revolutionists, Valjean uses his influence with Marius to have Javert turned over to him, so that he himself can execute him. Valjean takes Javert to a back alley, but instead of killing him, sets him free. Marius gets shot and Valjean takes him down a sewer. Javert catches them, but agrees to spare Marius. Valjean takes Marius back to his home, also saying goodbye to Cosette. When Valjean returns to Javert, Javert tells him that he is now unable to reconcile Valjeans criminal past with his current lawful existence and the great kindness, generosity, and goodness that Valjean has shown. Stating, "Its a pity the rules dont allow me to be merciful," Javert finally sets Valjean free, shackles himself, adding "Ive tried to live my life without breaking a single rule," and throws himself into the Seine thus taking his own life. Valjean walks down the empty street, finally a free man, with a smile on his face.Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean
Geoffrey Rush as Javert
Uma Thurman as Fantine
Claire Danes as nineteen-year-old Cosette
Mimi Newman as young eight-year-old Cosette
Hans Matheson as Marius Pontmercy
Jon Kenny and Gillian Hanna as the Thenardiers
John McGlynn as Carnot
Kelly Hunter as Mme Victurien
Shane Hervey as Gavroche
Lennie James as Enjolras
Sylvie Koblizkova as Eponine
Peter Vaughan as Bishop Myriel
The film changes the names of secondary characters and places to make them more readily understood by an English-speaking audience. Many details of the plot are faithfully reproduced, including the trial at Arras and the death of Gavroche, while entire segments of the plot are eliminated. As mayor, Valjean is aided by a junior police official more loyal to him than to Javert. The Thenardier family appears only when Valjean redeems Cosette. The Petit Gervais episode does not occur. Marius has no family background and leads the student revolt. Cosette is far more independent in the film, suggests leaving the cloister to experience the outside world, and challenges Valjeans control of her. Valjean explains his past to her directly rather than through Marius. The film ends with Javerts suicide, eliminating the novels extended denouement, including the wedding and Valjeans death.
The film received a 74% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states "This intelligent, handsomely crafted adaptation of Victor Hugos classic novel condenses the storys developments without blunting its emotional impact."
Geoffrey Rush appears in Les Miserables and The Book Thief. Geoffrey Rush appears in Les Miserables and Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Bille August directed Les Miserables and Pelle the Conqueror. Victor Hugo wrote the story for Les Miserables and Les Miserables: The Dream Cast in Concert. Bille August directed Les Miserables and The House of the Spirits.
The film opened at number four in its opening weekend with $5,011,840 behind He Got Game, City of Angels, and The Big Hit; the film would eventually gross a domestic total of $14,096,321.