Jan Valjean, himself one of the less fortunate, is redeemed by his own sacrifices -- raising a young woman and giving her up, as Michael Gerson notes in the Washington Post, "Crying at the Movies", here. (At the age of 10, I remember crying at the end of "The Robe", the first picture in Cinemascope, when the hero is executed at the end by the Romans.)
This sort of big musical in the past would have had an intermission (just like on stage), running 157 minutes. There is a clear sense of "Second Half" when the 1832 June Rebellion sequence starts.
Universal and Working Title, have been quick to remind us that the actors (especially Jackman) sing as they act, without back-editing to put in the singing. Jackman is said to have lost 25 pounds for the role so that his face would have that hollowed-out, wretched look. And Schoenberg (#2) wrote a new song, "Suddenly" for a climatic point in the film version in the June Rebellion .