Although certainly on his way to being greatly praised thanks to Les Miserables, Eddie Redmayne has been acting as leading men as well as secondary characters on screen for a little more than a decade. He has the boyish attitude and look to play sensitive and emotional men, but the power to play tough and flawed characters that hold their own.
He brings the necessary emotional turmoil to the role of Marius, torn between the revolution mentality, social obligation, and loyalty and love for those around him. It makes him a great character to watch work through trials and tribulations, a brilliant combination of passion, whimsy, and emotional complexity.
Yet He Isn't Given Credit For...
Breaking out on stage as Viola in an all-male production of Twelfth Night, Redmayne has since shed the skirts and donned everything from noble livery to tuxedos, from a cowboy hat to monk's robes. He has played would be assassins in two films about Elizabeth I, both socially inept and suave young men from multiple time periods, and has taken controversial roles playing unstable men as the incestuous Antony Baekeland in Savage Grace or predatory Eddie Kreezer from Hick.
Although he does not necessarily have the naturally commanding physique and voice of some other leading men, Redmayne acts with bare and accessible emotions, and has a quiet charisma and presence that makes even his most timid characters dynamic. Although him gaining recognition and being labelled a "rising star" is good, it is also good to remember that Marius or even his role in My Week With Marilyn isn't the sudden beginning of Redmayne, he didn't just start to rise.
He has consistently brought the same power and likability to his work over the years, all of which he certainly deserves credit for.