7.5 out of 10

Release Date: 7th of September 2012

Director: Joe Wright: (Pan / Hanna / The Soloist / Atonement / Pride and Prejudice (2005))

Cast: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Kelly MacDonald, Matthew MacFadyen, Olivia Williams, David Wilmot, Shirley Henderson,  Michelle Dockery, Steve Evets, Holliday Grainger with Ruth Wilson and Emily Watson

Writer: Tom Stoppard / Leo Tolstoy


To be proof read: Joe Wright‘s version of Anna Karenina takes a little while to get used to. The idea of setting the action within a giant derelict theatre with props arriving in situ around the actor truns out to be marvelous once you can get your head around what you’re actually watching.  This storytelling device is distracting in the early stages of the film when you need to be able to invest heavily in Anna’s character and tragic through line.  Ultimately, it pays off because of the sheer commitment and depth of the central performances.  This adaptation could have so easily been a DOA cold fish like Bernard Rose‘s 1995 film.  I haven’t seen the stage bound effect used since mid 90s Peter Greenaway (Baby Of Macon / The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, etc.) once the film settles into a rhythm and begins to concentrate on the main characters.

High society countess, Anna Karenina (KEIRA KNIGHTLEY – NEVER LET ME GO) enjoys a peaceful marriage with her older husband (JUDE LAW – DOM HEMINGWAY) and doesn’t want for anything. She doesn’t even realise that love is missing from her life until she encounters younger dandy Count Vronsky (AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON – NOWHERE BOY) and falls head over heels in love with him. Their affair is witness by the whole of Russian high society and demonstrates how much such an affair could cost a woman, yet leave the man virtually unscandalised. What unfurls is a tragic story of doomed love and a date with a train.

If there is no emotional investment in the Anna character, this story can be one hell of a a boring slog. Keira Knightley has found a role perfect for her brittle yet vulnerable style of acting.  Elsewhere Jude Law uglies up and delivers a masterful performance of understatement and sadness. Domhnall Gleeson (DREDD) and Alicia Vikander (THE FIFTH ESTATE) vie for the audience’s hearts and minds as they begin a tentative love affair on the sidelines. Again Aaron Taylor-Johnson work miracles with an unsympathetic pillock of a role. Vronsky is somehow tolerable and dashing in this rendition.

SPOILERS: Anna is subtlely haunted by her impending doom. In an early scene she witness a fatal accident on a train platform, she also glimpses an oncoming train over her shoulder in her parlour mirror at one particularly low moment.  The love affair is surrounded by signs that is nothing but a temporary blip for Vronsky but the opposite for Anna. There’s a scene that rolls out about half way through where the lovers are relaxing on a blanket in an orchard.  Conversation pauses as a strong breeze catches the boughs of a nearby tree. This alone will send a chill down your spine.

I’ve not been a great fan of director Joe Wright‘s previous films; Pride and Prejudice is too girly, Atonement was botched and badly acted and constructed (I loved the book) and Hanna was fun but slight. I have to admit to inwardly groaning when I heard this was being made (largely based on my experiences with the boring Bernard Rose version) but I’m glad to admit that I was completely wrong. This film adaptation has finally got everything right. It understands the heart of the story and he’s found the right actors to get this across to us.

7.5 out of 10 – A true, effective and sad version of this overdone story.  Great acting, wonderful production values, memorable scenes and crucially, a thorough understanding of the source material. Utterly recommended.


  • Keira Knightley: Say When, Everest, The Imitation Game, Laggies, Can a Song Save Your Life?, Jack Ryan -Shadow Recruit, Seeking a Friend For The End Of The World, A Dangerous Method, Last Night, Never Let Me Go,   London Boulevard, The Duchess, The End Of Love, Silk, Atonement, Pirates Of The Caribbean 1-3, Domino, Pride & Prejudice (2005), The Jacket, King Arthur (2004), Love Actually, Pure, Thunderpants, Bend It Like Beckham, The Hole (2001), Star Wars- The Phantom Menace, Innocent Lies
  • Jude Law: Knights of the Roundtable – King Arthur, Genius, Spy (2015), Black Sea, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Dom Hemingway, Side Effects, Rise Of The Guardians (voice), 360, Hugo, Contagion, Sherlock Holmes 2 (2011), The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, Sherlock Holmes (2009), Repo Men, My Blueberry Nights, Sleuth, The Holiday (2006), Breaking & Entering, Aviator, Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events (voice), Closer, Alfie, Sky Captain and The World Of Tomorrow, I Heart Huckabees, Cold Mountain, The Road To Perdition, Enemy At The Gates, Love Honour and Obey, A.I., The Talented Mr Ripley, Existenz, Wisdom Of Crocodiles, Final Cut, Midnight In The Garden Of Good and Evil, Gattaca, Wilde, Shopping
  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Nocturnal Animals, Avengers Assemble 2, Fifty Shades of Grey, Godzilla (2014), Kick Ass 2, Savages (2012), Albert Nobbs, Chatroom, Kick Ass, Nowhere Boy,
  • Kelly MacDonald: Swallows and Amazons, Special Correspondents, Boardwalk Empire (TV), The Decoy Bride, Brave (voice), Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – part 2, Choke,  No Country For Old Men, Nanny McPhee, A Cock and Bull Story, Finding Neverland, Intermission, Gosford Park, Some Voices, House!, The Loss Of Sexual Innocence, Elizabeth I, Stella Does Tricks, Trainspotting
  • Matthew MacFadyen: The von Trapp Family, Ripper Street (TV), The Three Musketeers (2011),  Robin Hood (2010), Frost/Nixon, In My Father’s Den, Death At a Funeral (2007), Incendiary,Pride and Prejudice (2005), Maybe Baby, Spooks (TV),
  • Olivia Williams: Man Up, The Haunting of Radcliffe House, Seventh Son, Map of the Stars, Sabotage, Last Days On MarsNow Is Good Wild Bill (2012),  The Ghost, Hanna, An Education, Sex & Drugs & Rock-n-Roll, X-Men III, To Kill A King, Below, The Heart Of Me, The Sixth Sense, Born Romantic, Rushmore, The Postman
  • Domhnall Gleeson: The Revenant, Star Wars – The Force Awakens, Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Frank, Calvary, About Time,  Shadow DancerDredd, Never Let Me Go, True Grit (2011), Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – part 1 & 2,
  • Alicia Vikander: Bourne Identity 5, Tulip Fever, The Danish Girl,  The Man from UNCLE, Seventh Son, Son of a Gun, Ex Machina, Testament of Youth, The Fifth Estate, A Royal Affair
  • David Wilmot: Ripper Street (TV), The Food Guide To Love, ’71, Gold, CalvaryGood Vibrations, Shadow Dancer, Parked, The Guard, Intermission, I Went Down
  • Shirley Henderson: Urban Hymn, Set Fire To The Stars, In Secret, Filth, The Look Of Love, Everyday, Meek’s Cutoff, Life During Wartime, Wild Child, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, Marie Antoinette, Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire, A Cock And Bull Story, Bridget Jones 2,  Yes, Intermission, Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself, Harry Potter and The Chamber Of Secrets, Once Upon a Time In The Midlands, 24 Hour Party People, Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Claim (2000), Wonderland (2000), Topsy Turvy, Trainspotting, Rob Roy
  • Michelle Dockery: Consider Yourself, The Sense of an Ending,  Self/Less, Downton Abbey (TV), Non-Stop, Hanna
  • Steve Evets: Rev (TV), The Selfish Giant Spike Island, The FacilityBrighton Rock (2011), Wuthering Heights (2011), A Boy Called Dad, Looking For Eric, Summer
  • Holliday Grainger: Tulip Fever, Cinderella (2015), The Riot Club, Great Expectations (2012)Bel Ami,  Jane Eyre (2011), AwaydaysScouting Book For Boys
  • Ruth Wilson: The Affair (TV), Suite Francaise, Locke (voice), The Lone Ranger (2013), Luther (TV)
  • Emily Watson: Molly Moon, Everest, A Royal Night Out, Testament of Youth, The Theory of Everything, Belle, The Book Thief, War Horse, Oranges and Sunshine, Cemetery Junction, Synedoche New York, Miss Potter, Seperate Lies, The Proposition, Corpse Bride (voice), Wah-Wah, The Life and Death Of Peter Sellers, Equilibrium, Red Dragon, Punch Drunk Love, Gosford Park, The Luzhin Defence, Angela’s Ashes, Cradle Will Rock, Hilary & Jackie, The Boxer, Metroland, Breaking The Waves

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