Movie Review: 'Anna Karenina' -- 3.5 stars

Keira Knightley in a scene from "Anna Karenina."

Keira Knightley in a scene from "Anna Karenina." (Credit: Handout)

Anna Karenina
3.5 stars
Directed by Joe Wright
Starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Rated R

Joe Wright, director of this "Anna Karenina" adaptation, pulls off an impressive feat. He takes the iconic, timeless work and makes it his own.

It's impossible to do a novel like Leo Tolstoy's justice on the big screen; at some 1,000 pages, his "Karenina" is too big, too sprawling and too intricate.

But in offering his own theatrical take on the material, restricting the action largely to a single set and emphasizing broad artifice, Wright successfully invigorates it. The filmmaker, working from a script by Tom Stoppard, finds his way inside the characters' heads and hearts.

The story of the affair between St. Petersburg socialite Anna (Keira Knightley) and cavalry officer Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), set against the changing social currents of late 19th century Russia, resonates here because the form reflects the content. The staging and visuals, which resemble an old-fashioned musical, express the stark emotions at the core of this narrative and its portrait of people struggling with love in its various forms.

Still, the lavish production design might well have overwhelmed the human elements, were it not for the fact that Knightley makes you feel every bit of Anna's intense pain. She's the engine that drives the project and catapults it into the realm of the unforgettable.


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