A powerful film ruined by irritating commentary
- Les Misérables review by Darius
A bleak and powerful film, with strong performances particularly from the young actors. The experience of watching the DVD, however, was seriously marred for me by the incessant woman's voice providing English commentary as if for a blind person. I tried several times altering the settings to get rid of this, but without success. The on-screen subtitles would have been more than adequate.
2 out of 5 members found this review helpful.
An excellent movie showing life in the rougher suburbs of French cities
- Les Misérables review by Philip in Paradiso
The film takes place in Montfermeil, a rough suburb of Paris. The local population that lives in high-rise apartment blocks is mostly of North African and African origin. The film follows a 3-man team of police officers in an unmarked car; their role is to crack down on crime and intervene fast when needed. One of them, Stéphane Ruiz, is shocked by the way his colleagues behave, but he is new. Soon, a fairly trivial incident escalates, as violence is unleashed - a combination of police brutality on the one hand and rioting by the local, mostly black male teenagers, on the other, who resent the police patrols.
Although the film is an action movie in many ways - but not a conventional one - it also touches upon far deeper issues, including social deprivation, poverty, cultural integration, non-European immigration, delinquency, etc. The story is fast-paced and, although simple enough, full of extreme tension and suspense. What is also striking is that it feels almost like a documentary rather than a piece of fiction. The main characters feel very real, and there are many funny or farcical moments too, as can happen in real life, even in dramatic situations.
You do not often see films like this, which refrain from preaching, tell a story of this kind, and tell it well. I would say it is quite a remarkable achievement. The situations depicted are, from what I know, highly realistic: many rough council estates with a high immigrant population in French cities could be the scene of such developments. But the film is never simplistic, in my opinion, in the way that it deals with the issues: there is no simple answer to the mess that those forgotten communities live in... It should be pointed out that the director is, himself, from that part of Paris, and is of African origin.
I strongly recommend the film. I think it is excellent and memorable. [If you watch it with the standard settings, it is in French, with subtitles in English.]
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.
Dreary documentary-style social realism
- Les Misérables review by Alphaville
First of all, yes, you can watch this film with English subtitles and without commentary; just choose from the set-up screen.
It’s a docu-style drama set in the black community of the seedy Paris banlieus (suburbs). We follow a couple of equally seedy cops as they trawl around in their car butting in on street confrontations of one sort or another. As it’s “inspired” by the 2005 riots, you’ll soon see where it’s heading, but it takes a whole 50mins to reach a dramatic incident that amounts to anything more than local colour.
Despite the clichéd environment and plot predictability, it could yet have been interesting with a good director at the helm. Unfortunately writer/director Ladj Ly, who has made previous documentaries on the subject and been imprisoned for kidnapping, has nothing new to say on the matter and no idea on how to shoot a film. This is just an exercise in slice-of-life shaky-cam aesthetics. If anything, it’s UNdirected.
Naturally it won a prize at Cannes, but not from the audience. Not even a few Lloyd Webber anthems could save this Miserables. Congrats to anyone who can keep their finger off the FF button. To see how it should be done, watch the brilliant TV series Spiral.
1 out of 4 members found this review helpful.