Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Miserables” is one of the best stories ever told.   Oscar-winning Director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) has adapted the operatic “Les Miserables” theatrical presentation , written by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boubil, which captures the epic and intimate scale of Hugo’s classic in music.

“Les Miserables” opens in 1815, with convict Jean Valjean being paroled after 19 years in prison.  Required to present his parole papers wherever he goes, no one hires him.  The Bishop Bienvenue takes pity on Valjean, feeding and housing him for a night.  But Valjean is so embittered by his prior treatment that he steals the church silver.  The police arrest Valjean and return him and his loot to the church, where to everyone’s surprise the good bishop says he has gifted the silver to Valjean, resulting in Valjean’s release.  Assuming a new identity, and inspired by the bishop’s gesture, Valjean uses the silver to start a new life.  Eight years later he is the kindly owner of a business, distracted by the arrival of menacing Police Inspector Javert allowing one of his workers, Fantine to be unjustly fired.  Later, as the starving girl lays dying, Valjean vows to tend to Fantine’s orphan daughter, Cosette.  But at that moment, Javert discovers his true identity and Valjean is once again on the run.  Nine years later, Valjean and Cosette are in Paris on the eve of a revolution.  Cosette falls in love with Marius, one of the student revolutionaries and Valjean must try to save Marius from death.

“Les Miserables” is a tale of sacrifice, love, and redemption; and while the screenplay modifies some of the lyrics, the nobility and power of that original theatrical production is true.   The new element Mr. Hooper has added is a visual intimacy that is not possible on the stage.  The opening number, “Look Down,” is symbolically acted out as the prison guards look down at the convict laborers in a dry dock.  Close-ups of all of the characters add power to the words they sing.

The cast is impressive; although their singing is below opera caliber, they make up for that deficiency with still decent voices and terrific acting talent.  Hugh Jackman (“X-Men”) is Jean Valjean: a fallen man who recognizes his debt to society and constantly tries to repay it.  Anne Hathaway (“The Dark Knight Rises”) should get an Oscar nomination as the doomed Fantine; her “I Dreamed a Dream” is the centerpiece of the film.  Russell Crowe (Robin Hood”) stalks and scowls as Javert; on stage Javert is a baritone, but Crowe is a tenor and some of the power of his words is lost as a result.  Amanda Seyfried’s (“Mama Mia”) reedy voice is offset by her soulful eyes as Cosette.  Boyish Eddie Redmayne (“My Week With Marilyn”) is a revelation as Marius; often overlooked on the stage, Mr. Redmayne’s Marius comes to life as a complex character—he is not merely the undeserving recipient of the love of Cosette and the sacrifice of others, he is the next generation’s Valjean, struggling to merit the gifts he is given.  Theatrical star Samantha Banks plays the pathetic Eponine to great effect; if her “On My Own” and “A Little Drop of Rain” don’t move you, you are made of stone.  Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Dictator”) and Helena Bonham Carter (“Harry Potter”), play the ruthless Thenardiers as revenge-seeking opportunists, visually humorous but spiritually murderous.

While not flawless, “Les Miserables” is a spectacularly entertaining and moving work, and should not be missed.  The stirring music, moral themes and Biblical symbolism can resonate with audiences of all ages, but parental guidance is suggested for a few ribald references.