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Review: Anna Karenina, Running time: 130mins, Certificate: 12A ***
LEO TOLSTOY wrote the novel and Tom Stoppard penned this latest screen adaptation. But this Anna Karenina is very much the vision of director Joe Wright as he teams again with leading lady Keira Knightley.
This is a movie that is ravishing to look at. Costumes and art direction are stunning. The cinematography is beautiful. And, to give Wright his due, this isn’t just another version of the doomed love story between a married woman and a randy cavalry officer in 1870s Imperial Russia.
The movie takes its time so, that as it goes past the two-hour mark you may find yourself wishing that the train under which Anna throws herself is on time and we’re not kept hanging about any longer.
In a bold move – or a foolish one, as the approach may alienate as many people as it pleases – Wright sets the story in a theatre where the scenes, from grand balls to a horse race, are acted out. This won’t appeal to everyone, but like Wright’s single-take Dunkirk scene (shot on Redcar beach) in Atonement this is bravura film-making.
Kinghtley is the bored married woman in Moscow to lend emotional support to her sister-in-law Dolly (Kelly Macdonald), whose buffoonish husband (Matthew Macfadyen, Darcy in Wright’s film of Pride And Prejudice) is having an affair. En route she encounters a countess (Olivia Williams) and her dashing officer son Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). He quickly switches his affections from Dolly’s young sister (Alicia Vikander) to Anna and pursues her relentlessly, refusing to take no for an answer. Their affair scandalises society and doesn’t much please her stoical husband Alexei (Jude Law) either. While Anna Karenina looks sumptuous, the film lacks any emotional heart. There’s no chemistry between Knightley and Taylor-Johnson, although Law makes us feel for the long-suffering wronged husband.