Director: Ladj Ly (French with English sub-titles)
Classification: 16 CT IAT LPV
Les Misérables is one of the most potent films you are likely to see this year. It’s a volatile and brilliantly executed contemporary version of Victor Hugo’s French Revolution epic – and it received an Oscar nod this week.
Considering the explosive political climate in France at present, Les Misérables comes at an opportune time and masterfully illustrates the serious disparities that exist within the French social system and the crucial role the police play in monitoring the unfolding violence and intimidation that occur. Their role is a sensitive one – yet director Ladj Ly, a Mali-born French filmmaker, throws light on how a few corrupt and violent cops help ferment the already unjust system for their own gain.
Corporal Stéphane Ruiz (Damien Bonnard), a reserved and sensitive young cop, has recently joined the Anti-Crime unit in Montfermeil, Paris, (where sections of Hugo’s 1862 novel is set) from the Provinces.
He meets his new colleagues, Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada (Djebril Zonga), who are both experienced members of the team, and goes on patrol with them. Beneath the veneer of solidarity and security is a festering sore that shows alarming signs of rupturing at any moment.
Chris is a violent, aggressive Chauvinist bruiser who thrives on the adrenaline the streets bring with it. He is known in the neighborhood as the “Pink Pig,” a nickname he actually relishes. He believes his job gives him carte blanche and he thinks nothing of attempting to grope a teenage girl under the guise of frisking her for drugs or smashing a cell phone because the owner is filming him in action.