Movie Review: Les Miserables (Ly, 2019)

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Movie: Les Misérables 

Production Companies: SRAB Films, Rectangle Productions, Lyly Films, Canal+, Cine+, Arte, Wild Bunch, CNC

Director: Ladj Ly

Producers: Toufik Ayadi, Christophe Barral

Scriptwriters: Ladj Lay, Giordano Gederlini, Alexis Manenti

Main Cast: Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djebril Zonga, Issa Percia, Al-Hassan Ly, Steve Tientcheu

Release Date: 20th November 2019 (France)

Running Time: 103 minutes 

Certificate: 15


Before you wonder if there was a remake of Les Miserables the musical, don’t worry there’s no more Russell Crowe singing. Instead it’s a film about police violence in Paris set just after the 2018 World Cup. And yes it becomes eerily similar to real life events at some points which I’m going to touch on later in the review. Besides its eerie presence, Les Miserables (2019) is a very well made film with plenty of good performances which help accentuate the realness of the film’s events. So without further ado here is my review of the film.


Les Miserables (2019) follows Stephane Ruiz, a police officer who’s recently moved to Paris, as he is assigned to work with squad leader Chris and brigadier Gwada in the commune of Montfermeil, Paris. Here they are thrown into a dangerous emerging class war when a young boy, Issa, is embroiled in a battle with police after he is revealed to have stolen a lion cub. Yet when the violence begins to escalate, Stephane, Chris and Gwada find themselves trying to defend their actions in instigating a class war by firing non lethal ammo on Issa.

And like I’ve said previously this feels awfully familiar with stories like this breaking into the media more and more. This is what makes the plot of the film so good: the fact that it manages to examine class tensions without ever feeling preachy about its message. So without further ado, let’s get into the analysis portion of the review.


The Portrayal of the Police in Les Misérables 

To start my analysis of Les Miserables 2019, I’m going to discuss how the film portrays the police and their actions. Firstly it’s important to note that their portrayal is massively helped by their actors, especially Djebril Zonga. Anyway, throughout the film we see two types of police: the police who abuse their power and status and those who genuinely believe they need to do right by the community.

For an example of the first type of police in Les Miserables, look at police squad leader Chris. Whilst he initially seems to show concern after Issa is hit by a flashball all that concern goes out the window when he realises that the whole thing was filmed on a drone. Then it becomes about recovering the drone to protect his and the department’s reputations. Now compare this to main character Stephane’s reaction to Issa being hit. Here he shows concern before Chris and Gwada tell him to track down the drone that recorded Issa being hit. This shows a clear distinction between the two sides of the cops in Les Miserables: the cops who want to uphold the law and those who care only for their reputations.

Damien Bonnard’s Performance in Les Misérables

Continuing my analysis of Les Miserables, I’m going to discuss Damien Bonnard’s performance as Stephane. Now for starters it’s a really good performance. What makes it so good? Well the fact he comes from outside the policing system within Montfermeil. This means he can act as a conduit for the audience’s point of view as in a way both of us are outside the policing system.

Anyway the performance is very good as he brings much needed emotional depth to the police department who often seem callous because of their treatment of the people they are supposed to protect. Yet more evidence of this is seen in the aforementioned scene where Stephane attempts to help Issa after he is hit by the paintball. Here, Bonnard does a phenomenal job in helping the audience feel sympathy for Issa as well as creating conflict within the police. All of these elements help make Stephane feel more human and in some ways relatable as he just wants to do right by the community he is supposed to protect.

Cinematography in Les Misérables 

To conclude my analysis of Les Miserables, I’m going to discuss the cinematography of the film. A prime example of good cinematography is when the police attempt to confront their attackers in a crowded apartment block. Here, the camera uses a shot reverse shot of the police advancing up the stairs. This is while the kids launching projectiles down the stairs at the police.

By using this particular shot, Ly manages to convey the escalating chaos of the standoff. This is all while the audience are expecting violence to erupt. Also, the fact that Ly plays with the audience’s expectations makes it all the better. Also, another example of good cinematography in Les Miserables is the opening sequence of the World Cup celebrations. Here the cinematography helps to convey the celebrations between different classes. Oh and the joy that football can bring to people. Also, this acts in stark contrast to the violence and division seen within the film.


To summarise Les Miserables, this is a well made film about divisions within society. These differences are between the people and the police sworn to protect them. It also highlights how football can unite a population whilst violence and mistrust can divide it. Damn that got a bit too real there….

Overall Rating: 7/10 – Respectable

Target Audience: 15+

Content Warning: Moderate Violence and Gore, Severe Profanity, Moderate Alcohol and Drugs References, Moderate Frightening and Intense Scenes 

Recommendation: Yes