In its opening weeks at the box office, some reviewers have reluctantly praised Les Miserables while panning it for being too sincere and epic, laden with "unashamed, operatic-sized sentiments." This criticism is similar to the objections raised against Babel, the recent effort from Mumford and Sons.
But just as many Christians praised Mumford and co. for letting music and faith take them soaring above cynicism, the epic new production of Les Mis has been racking up acclaim from Christians, including bloggers Tim Dalyrmple and Owen Strachan.
CNN suggests that a marketing effort concentrated on evangelicals, including large institutions like Focus on the Family, is paying off at the box office. But the story's themes of grace are widely celebrated, and even those who didn't see the film in advance were pulsing with excitement. Mike Cosper wrote a paean for The Gospel Coalition even before seeing the film, urging readers to see it. Cosper's pre-review highlighted the powerful depiction of grace in the film and garnered a great deal of attention (over 2,000 tweets and links and likes on Facebook).
Cosper, Dalrymple, and Strachan rightly see a beautiful depiction of the gospel in this film. Dalrymple began his post: "I cannot think of any work of fiction that conveys the contrast between Law and Grace as vividly and profoundly as Les Miserables." All three authors cite the distinction between law and grace in the titles of their posts, and this has been a common theme in analysis of Les Mis.
But what if the film also shows us a beautiful picture of law?
In a famous scene at the beginning of the story, we encounter a thief named Valjean, newly released from prison named. After being turned ...1
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