Inspired by the Paris Riots which occurred in 2005, a police officer named Stephane (Damien Bonnard) moves to Montfermeil due to personal reasons. He is the newest member to join the Anti-Crime Squad. Montfermeil is where the author Victor Hugo set his well-known novel Les Misérables and this film is a directional debut by Ladj Ly.
As Stephane arrives in Paris, he’s introduced to two new colleagues who he will be working with moving forward- Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada (Djebrll Zonga). Chris and Gwada decide to show him around as they are both experienced officers. At first glance, they both feel Stephane isn’t up for the task and tease him by giving Stephane a nickname which he doesn’t approve of. While patrolling on duty, the trio soon find themselves in a sticky situation which if not resolved quickly could lead to a high level of violence between multiple gangs. And while they attempt to make an arrest, a horrific incident occurs which is caught on camera by a flying drone nearby. This footage has the risk of causing far more damage than these three men could ever desire. The tension is now at an all-time high between the police, gangs and the neighbourhood.
As a film, it does not take long at all for the story and plot to get underway. We get great introductions to the key lead actor and his fellow team. We learn about their personalities through general discussions between characters. As a plot, I found it to be incredibly gripping and tense. There were honestly many moments where I had no idea of what some of the outcomes were going to be, and I found myself gripping my cinema chair. Nothing in the film is predictable, and no result was evident to me.
Performances are also believable, and I have nothing to fault here. Child actors were able to give such talented performances, bringing the moments to life.
Visually this is an extremely pleasing film. Everything about this film looks and feels completely real and I personally loved seeing some of the creative shots the director was able to bring to the screen. One example of this is when we see camera shots panning over the city, filming large buildings. Shots such as these drew me in closer to the film and the world the plot is set in.
Overall, for a directional debut, I was left feeling impressed by this film. The plot itself is quite tense, and it doesn’t take long to get underway. Nothing in this film’s plot was predictable or evident to me, and performances are also quite durable. Les Misérables as a film is gripping and compelling and I most certainly look forward to greater things to come from director Ladj Ly.
Les Misérables (2019) is Showing in Australian Cinemas from 27th August
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