Les Misérables. 2019. France. Directed by Ladj Ly. Screenplay by Ly, Giordano Gederlini, Alexis Manenti. With Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djibril Zonga. French with English subtitles. 103 min.
Though the plot of Ladj Ly’s police procedural, set in the suburbs of Paris, bears little connection to Victor Hugo’s monolithic novel, the sociopolitical subtext Hugo intimated bleeds across nearly every frame. Set in the same ‘burb in which Hugo wrote his masterpiece, though updated to the backdrop of the 2005 French riots, the film centers on a rookie cop who must come to terms with two new veteran partners, one overbearing and the other a weakling. The two seasoned officers frequently cross ethical lines, until a shockingly violent incident with a black teenager triggers a massive reckoning within the fractured law enforcement system and its oppressive conduits. Unfolding at a deliberate pace over two pulse-quickening hours, the film reaches a soul-shredding climax that can only be experienced through the extraordinary humanism of Ly’s carefully constructed characters, all of whom rise to challenge Hugo’s fiery vision. Courtesy Amazon Studios.