‘Les Misérables’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Early Reviews: Great Acting and Direction

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les miserables zero dark thirty reviews Les Misérables and Zero Dark Thirty Early Reviews: Great Acting and Direction

The Oscar race now officially includes Les Misérables and Zero Dark Thirty – which shouldn’t come as a huge shock, seeing how the former is an adaptation of producer Cameron Mackintosh’s award-winning Broadway smash from director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech). Meanwhile, the latter is a drama/thriller about the hunt for Osama bin Laden from Oscar-winning Hurt Locker screenwriter and director duo, Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow.

Nonetheless, both films had their first public screenings over the Thanksgiving holiday frame and drew unadulterated praise from those in attendance. Read on for our breakdown of what the general consensus is for both titles… so far.

Hooper’s Les Miz has long been regarded as something special, seeing how trailer footage suggests it infuses Mackintosh’s original pop musical with a stripped-down aesthetic that helps ground the flamboyant proceedings (unlike Joel Schumacher’s Phantom of the Opera or Rob Marshall’s Nine, to name a few examples). Moreover, the cast boasts heralded actors with professional singing experience; that’s in opposition to some of the recent movie musicals that’ve relied on either name-actor casts (Mamma Mia!) or Broadway veterans (Rent).

Reviews for Les Miz are embargoed for the time being, but Indiewire has rounded up Twitter reactions from several critics and film journalists who were at the first open showing. Here’s a bullet-point summary of the responses:

  • Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean could land his first Best Actor Oscar nod.
  • Anne Hathaway as Fantine is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination.
  • Eddie Redmayne as Marius turns in a solid supporting performance.
  • Russell Crowe takes a “Jesus Christ Superstar rock-opera” approach that distinguishes Inspector Javert (but may not be to everyone’s taste).
  • The film as a whole is a “tour de force” and “tearjerker” that seems destined to become a Best Picture nominee.
anne hathaway les miserables trailer Les Misérables and Zero Dark Thirty Early Reviews: Great Acting and Direction

Anne Hathaway is earning lots of praise for ‘Les Misérables’

Similar to Les Miz, Zero Dark Thirty is picking up accolades for its leading lady – Jessica Chastain as CIA analyst Maya (who is based on the real CIA agent that led the manhunt for bin Laden) – and its qualities as a cinematic viewing experience. Deadline has published an article that touches on the heavy research by Boal and Bigelow, suggesting the two have learned some lessons from the blowback over Hurt Locker‘s portrayal of Iraq war military operations (which some real-life vets criticized as inauthentic).

Here’s an excerpt from THR critic Todd McCarthy’s review:

“As it has emerged instead, ['Zero Dark Thirty''] could well be the most impressive film Bigelow has made, as well as possibly her most personal, as one keenly feels the drive of the filmmaker channeled through the intensity of Maya’s character. The film’s power steadily and relentlessly builds over its long course, to a point that is terrifically imposing and unshakable. Chastain carries the film in a way she’s never been asked to do before. Denied the opportunity to provide psychological and emotional details for Maya, she nonetheless creates a character that proves indelible and deeply felt.”

Time‘s Richard Corliss echoes those sentiments (read his review), saying that Zero Dark Thirty is a streamlined, but detail-oriented, representation of real events “in the tradition of [authors] Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.” Moreover, Corliss feels that Bigelow’s film trounces Ben Affleck’s own true story CIA thriller (and fellow Best Picture contender) Argo, in terms of both better direction and taking fewer liberties with the facts.

zero dark thirty trailer Les Misérables and Zero Dark Thirty Early Reviews: Great Acting and Direction

Jessica Chastain’s earning high marks for ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

In summation: both the Best Actress and Picture race heated up something fierce over the holiday frame, between early responses to Les Miz and Zero Dark Thirty. That’s not to mention, Ang Lee’s acclaimed 3D visual feast Life of Pi opening in theaters (read our review) and David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (read our review) beginning a limited release and generating discussion about Jennifer Lawrence’s performance therein.

Zero Dark Thirty begins an Oscar-qualifying run on December 19th. It begins a regular release next year on January 11th.

Les Misérables opens in theaters on Christmas Day.


Source: Indiewire, EW, Deadline, THR, Time

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  1. Really looking forward to ZDT. Not so much Les Mis, but it’s a must see because of Hooper, Hathaway, Jackman, and Crowe. ZDT should be miles better than that [helpful] crapfest that was on NatGeo a few weeks ago.

    • I’ll have to disagree, I think ZDT would be as “realistic” and “authentic” as The Hurt Locker was. And by that, I mean, NOT AT ALL… But critics will all think it is because most of them have absolutely no clue how things really happen…

      I honestly don’t care what these critics have to say, they have no clue what they are saying. I want to hear what a military vet, and even better, one involved in the operation, thinks about the movie. That would be the only opinion that I would listen to. Because I listened to the critics and wasted my money watching The Hurt Locker… Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice… You know the rest…

      • Personally, The Hurt Locker is a movie that improves upon repeat viewing (even if its not realistic), but that’s why I don’t want to see Zero Dark Thirty in theaters if its anything like Hurt Locker.

        Considering its runtime (2 hrs., 45 mins.!) and how many movies there are when its out, I’d rather wait for it on DVD where I can easily rewatch it.

        However, Jessica Chastain stars in it. She makes anything worth watching,

        • @Jose

          I highly doubt it. Maybe for you, not for me. I got extremely annoyed at all of the incredibly STUPID things the characters did in the movie that really made no sense at all, and that sniper scene is about THE DUMBEST thing I’ve ever seen. Whoever wrote that scene really shows that he/she has ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how firearms work, or about ballistics, or about training, etc. Basically, it was so wrong only people who also have no clue could possible watch it without rolling their eyes a million times during that scene… I don’t think I can sit through that trash one more time. Once was already once too much…

        • @Jose

          I usually have very good self control and remain completely silent through most movies I watch out of courtesy, but during that sniper scene I couldn’t help myself, I think I probably said a few things outloud in that theater… :-D

  2. Les Misérables, should it capture the magic of the show,
    will be an motion picture event of Titanic proportions to sail
    on to sweep all major Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor.

    In a year when many films aspired to greatness Les Miz just might be
    great and momentarily redeem Hollywood with a touch of its past glory.

    • I haven’t seen Les Mis yet, but I think Lincoln is pretty up there for best picture & Best Actor.
      I’d be surprised [no matter how good Jackman is] if he beat DDL for best actor. Though, depending on how many of the voters love broadway, it could pull off an upset for best picture. But Hooper just won a few years ago for TKS so.. though that shouldn’t be factored in, it might be.

      • Indiewire has Lincoln at 3rd in best picture with Argo still ahead of it. while ddl is the leader in best actor with the chance of being upset about by the guy in the session since ddl has already one twice, 3 Is difficult. after the screening indiewire has considered les mis the frontrunner with Argo.

  3. Zero Dark Thirty could stir up a lot of trouble !
    Not sure some people like that movie ,cause for some laden was a hero !
    Wouldn’t go into a cinema to watch that ! Who knows what can happen !

  4. I prefer Les Miserables 10 times than to watch a story I recently saw on Discovery Channel

    • well it certainly is a pickle.
      1 – watch a movie that’s been on / off broadway since forever,
      2 – Watch a movie that’s so “hyped”, a crappola version was hurriedly rushed to Nat Geo a few weeks back..

      I’ll admit.. it’s a tough choice.. :)

      • The answer is to watch both

  5. It will be hard to unseat Daniel-Day for best actor. He absolutely killed that role, down to hand gestures. Lol

  6. This is probably the best “0scar Season ” we’ve seen in years. With Argo, Lincoln, life of pi, silver linings, killing them softly, ZeroDark, les mis, and django all receiving substantial critical praise. Best director will be a really tough one to decide lol

  7. Does anyone else think this will be one of the biggest years for the Oscars. The last few seasons have had some great films but the winners have been pretty obvious (or at least narrowed down to 2-3 choices) in most of the major categories.

    This year it looks like we can have a full 10 movies where no one knows who’s gonna win it.

    Les Miserables
    Zero Dark Thirty
    Django Unchained
    Silver Linings Playbook
    The Hobbit
    The Master
    The Impossible
    This is 40
    Promised Land
    Hyde Park on the Hudson
    Life of Pi
    Cloud Atlas

    I would not be surprised seeing any of these films get nominated for best picture. (maybe a little surprised if “This is 40″ and/or “Skyfall” get nominated)

    • Assuming you’re talking about Best Picture nominations..
      let me help you out here

      Les Miserables – YES
      Zero Dark Thirty – Possibly
      Django Unchained – NO!!!!!!!!!!!!! Absolutely not.
      Avengers – it’s a comic book movie. I’d be surprised
      Silver Linings Playbook – Not my cup o tea, but if there are 10 nominations, it’s possible
      The Hobbit – unlikely
      Argo – YES
      The Master – YES
      Lincoln – ABSOLUTELY YES
      The Impossible – unlikely – probably just as much a chance as ZDT
      This is 40 – Dude, seriously??
      Promised Land – unlikely
      Hyde Park on the Hudson
      Life of Pi – unlikely
      Flight – YES
      Cloud Atlas – NO
      Skyfall – absolutely not.

        • Just pretend I said nothing, commenting on my phone never works well. haha.

          • LOL!

        • I hate to say it, since my Vote is for Lincoln, but I’d say it’s between Lincoln & Les Mis.

          • Many academy members found Lincoln to be a bore. Usually its a one sided concensese that wins best picture. I am not by any means trying to state Lincoln has no chance, nor isnt deserving. I have just heard around IndieWire and other sites that Argo is the frontrunner followed by silver linings playbook and then Lincoln. Which changed yesterday giving Les Mis the frontrunner along with Argo and ZDT sliding in about about as equal as Lincoln and Silver Linings. I think Les Mis has the best chae because many of its cast members and c are part of the academy. Though Argo has a director whose film has never won an award, while Speilberg and Hooper has. That being said the academy loves their films about iconic people or leaders (Frost/Nixon ad King’s Speech). It should be a close race with IMO 5 films that could win (that is saying ZDT and Les Mis turn out as well as the screenings say, and without any suprises like Django). It makes this year that much more interesting when watching the Oscars. Last year sucked It was pretty much obvious The Artist was a lock.

      • Random Internet Guy, while its not your cup of tea, Silver Linings Playbook is earning critical acclaim, so its a definite lock to be nominated.

        Nowhereman, from your picks, I say that the probable nominees are:

        Les Miserables
        Silver Linings Playbook
        Life of Pi

        With strong possibilities like:
        Zero Dark Thirty

        The Master – its forgetten and bobbed, but knowing The Weinstein Company, they could do a last minute campaign push to get it recognized

        The Impossible- if it keeps up its momentum its been winning at film festivals, but it has a better shot getting nominated for lead actress and supporting actor. Both of which are already packed races.

        And critically acclaimed indies like:
        Moonrise Kingdom
        Beasts of the Southern Wild

        And, these two you mentioned, but I don’t think they’d get in.
        This is 40- it has a better shot at screenplay
        Django Unchained-See above, plus a few tech nods.
        Skyfall-tech nods, and hopefully a cinematography win and a nomination for Judi Dench
        The Hobbit -tech nods

        And, a definite hell no to Cloud Atlas.

        • Totally forgot about Amour.. that’s supposedly another tearjerker.
          It’s got a good chance for best foreign, [imo] would be nice if it also got at least a nomination for best picture, but with the crowded field, I don’t think it has a real chance of taking the big prize.

          can’t wait to see it though, so much buzz about it earlier in the year.

          December 19 release date.

          • Yeah, I was actually going to not mention Amour, especially since it looks like it has a better chance at getting nominated for foreign film and screenplay, but a bunch of sites I follow are forecasting it to be nominated for those two as well as picture, director, and lead actor and actress.

      • Django not likely for a nomination? why not, i know its early and on paper it looks unlikely. But then again so does a movie about rouge Jewish soldiers going behind enemy lines to guerrilla attack Nazis

        also, all three Lord of the Rings movies so far have been nominated. Why is one for The Hobbit so far fetched.

  8. ^lol at some of those. Cloud atlas? Smh… Lol

    • Cloud Atlas was the “Feel good movie of the year” LOL! I still need to see it before it leaves theatres, it’s just that when I drag myself out of the apt, & reach the theatre, I’m like… “Maybe I should see Lincoln again”, or like Yesterday I went to See PI. It’s hard to justify 3 hours or so on a movie that you’re already expecting to be sorta bad :(

      • Cloud Atlas wasn’t bad just terrible. Atleast for me it didnt felt like 3 hours, while Lincoln felt like 6. I don’t like politics so a movie about an amemndment being passed was terrible for me. Nothing against the film just my personal opinion that should be irrelevent to anyones thoughts.

  9. Both seem like they’d be ok/good to some people but out of the two, I’d be more inclined to see Les Mis.

    Never seen a musical before (save for musical movies, mainly Disney ones) but honestly, as much as I appreciate what the armed forces all over the world do, I really can’t take another “yay, America!” movie.

  10. Les Mis looks SUBLIME. I think this movie is going to make alot of grown men shed a tear.

    From what I have seen of the cinematography and the performances (Hathaway <3), it is sure it be amazing.

    • I certainly hope not, I teared up enough at Lincoln. I’ve reached my quota for 2012.

      • I shed some tears at life of pi. The emotion shown with that tiger is enough to get me. Animals are the only thing that can make me genuinely empathetic. Lol

    • cool. I might actually read this.

  11. Looking forward to Zero Dark Thirty :)

  12. What impresses me is the lack of negative chatter about the films this year. Oscars are Oscars. Enjoy the great films we can watch and remember most years when the chatter — and films — were not as interesting. Love the critiques, but it’s a good year to be a film buff, so let that be the big picture.

  13. If these two movies get any academy awards they will be right up there with Obama and his Nobel prize. Anne Hathaway was in the movie(?) for all of maybe twenty minutes. Oscar? Never mind her for the moment. The movie sucked. First of all it is not a musical. The Sound of Music is a musical. Musicals have dialogue between the characters with a song here and there. This was an opera shot on film. Two hours and thirty eight minutes of excruciatingly lame singing by actors who are not opera singers. If you want to do an opera get some opera trained singers and do an opera. And twenty minutes in a movie should not be getting an academy award.
    As far as zero bunch of crap thirty. I don’t even need to see it, as a spec ops vet I can tell from the trailer that the movie is a steaming pile, at least the parts shown with the supposed military members.
    Hollywood really is nearing bottom, remake after remake these days with too much reliance on CGI. Time to get some new blood with fresh ideas.