User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 117 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 80 out of 117
  2. Negative: 16 out of 117

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  1. Sep 1, 2014
    Joe Wright's direction is as beautiful as always. Although it may not be as heartfelt as Pride & Prejudice or Atonement, it is another wonderful collaboration with his muse, Keira Knightley.
  2. Aug 20, 2014
    Leo Tolstoy would be quite sick if he saw this boring version of his masterpiece, which many critics believe could be one of the greatest novels ever written. If ever there was a case-book example of how to completely miss the boat in making a film out of novel, this would be it. It is regrettable that so much effort in overly lavish scenery and costumes was made around such an eccentric, off-key, virtually incomprehensible version of Tolstoy's marvelous novel. Expand
  3. Feb 15, 2014
    It’s the third time for Jon Wright to tender Keira Knightley a leading role in a period drama, the first two (PRIDE & PREJUDICE 2005, 8/10; ATONEMENT 2007, 9/10) have raked in handsome rewards, but woefully the third time is not a charm, a plain and simple reason is that Knightley’s screen reputation is a far cry from Anna Karenina, Tolstoy’s prime epitome of a Russian belle, a married woman with a modernism perspective, who is enchanted by her dauntless quest of passion and dare to break out of the shackles of a dead-water marriage, yet consequentially, entrapped by her capricious psyche and finally corroded by the society’s scorn and her overestimated perseverance of standing her ground.

    However, the film is a high-caliber colossus of mise en scène, deluxe costumes and outstanding art direction, particularly during the first act, its tableaux-on-stage suppleness can effortlessly dazzle the audience and preserve a spellbinding momentum while multifarious characters emerge and disappear, honing up to the climax, the resplendent ballroom sequences, introducing the lust-exuding pas de deux between Anna and Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson), concurrently, the subplot of Kitty (Vikander) and Levin (Gleeson) has been practically rolled out as well.

    Next, here comes the predestined adultery, which is fueled by the laborious emphasis on the enticement of the (not so inadvertent) eye contact, soon appears to be an over-contrived obligation to fornication other than following what your heart wants and the chemistry is purely physical, Anna and Vronsky should be soul-mate right? But here in this film, it is a Hollywood aggrandizement of a skinny beauty shagging a hot youngster who beams with pretended profundity (Taylor-Johnson was only 21, and not masculine enough to take on the role). So the magical momentum slumps, fortunately a little compensation is availed by Jude Law, whose version of Karenin is redolent of compassionate forbearance, elicits a free pardon to dissolve any blame generates from his side, occupies the moral higher ground, which skews our emotional pendulum and undermines Anna’s character-building as an anachronistic woman who tragedy is mostly accredit to the time she is in instead of her own defect in making poor decisions.

    An involuntarily pouting Keira Knightley, treads the same water in THE DUCHESS (2008, 7/10), no wonder the aesthetic fatigue surges, so she can nail Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet, but not Anna Karenina, she is not that versatile as an actress. With Anna hogging the spotlight, the rest of the cast seldom has any chance to enrich their roles, Macfadyen (Knightley’s Mr. Darcy in PRIDE & PREJUDICE) plays her luscious brother Oblonsky, adequately amps up some farcical digressions; as a mirrored romance between the rejected and the neglected (contrasts Anna and Vronsky’s passion play), Gleeson and Vikander imbue the film with a modicum of subtlety but the wayward editing fail to make their story more engaging.

    So this adaption is a musically lyric venture for Joe Wright fans, it has its marked imperfections (thanks a lot, English is not my native tongue, otherwise I would find it is hard to take a Russian literature with mixed accents seriously), but the redundancy of his grandiose aesthetics, suggests Wright is a man knows what is his strongest suit, I can envisage him a successful comeback if only he can acquire some apposite fodder to prepare, maybe it will be his next project PAN, the origin story of Peter Pan, a wonderland backstory may fall right into his froufrou niche, meanwhile hire a new casting director is more contingent now.
  4. Sep 3, 2013
    This was just unwatchable for me. Took me 15 minutes before giving up on this play/movie.Not many movies I don`t finish, but this one is added to the list. It`s was all over the place. Maybe they wanted an award for most ridicules movie.
  5. Aug 31, 2013
    Beautifully shot using a very theatrical style. In fact the majority of the action uses a theatre as its backdrop and I even spotted a section of stop-motion animation at one point. Sumptuous costumes, for which it won an Oscar, and some brilliantly choreographed set pieces are the backbone of this production. Of course we must not forget it is a drama and there’s plenty of that with some really excellent performances to back it up. Keira Knightly went up in my estimation with this one; as did Jude Law; they both put in great performances. Also worthy of note was Aaron Taylor-Johnson; who I have watched with interest over the past few years and is rapidly growing into a very fine actor yes, he is that guy from ‘Kick-Ass’). I was a little concerned that it may be a case of ‘style over substance’, but as it wore on I became more and more engrossed in the characters and the storyline. I guess this shows that the drama did manage to shine through (at least for me). The only thing that let it down was the fact the sub-plot involving Levin and Kitty didn’t really have a lot to do with Anna and Vronsky by the time we saw the last of them; it seemed a little disjointed. Over all though, a very worthy watch and one, I’m sure my sister would definitely enjoy!

    SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED

    My score: 7.7/10.
  6. May 21, 2013
    We have already seen 'Anna Karenina' done straight at least a dozen times, so why not take a different approach? In this case, the filmmakers impose Brechtian distancing devices (e.g., the theatrical settings) to challenge the audience's expectations. Apparently, lots of people don't want to be challenged.

    Also, I think Joe Wright is an underrated director whose work always surprises
    and astonishes me. This film, which is often breathtakingly, deliriously beautiful, is no exception. (Watch for the stunning, horrifying horse race scene.) Of special note are the film's exquisite costumes, music, art and production design, and cinematography. And superb acting; Keira Knightley makes a worthy and memorable Anna. Expand
  7. Mar 26, 2013
    Stunning! I might have preferred a more conventional period piece similar to Wright's other works (Atonement, P&P) that used actual shooting locations, but the aesthetic choices made for this film are incredible. The production design, costume design, and cinematography are absolutely gorgeous and really make the film one of the most beautiful you'll ever see. The performances are all solid and Knightley gives one of her best and most mature performances to date. The film is a bit emotionally cold at times due to the horrendous casting of Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Count Vronsky, but overall Anna Karenina is a good period piece. Expand
  8. Mar 17, 2013
    Anna Karenina is a powerful story of marital duty and obligation versus lustful passion and the pursuit of personal, if not egomaniacal, happiness. It is a popular theme. Every time I went to the video store to rent it, every single copy was out, even though the allotted shelf space was that which is usually reserved for blockbusters. When I finally procured a copy that had just been returned one minute earlier, I told the clerk that I heard the film was produced as though it was a stage play. He replied, “Yes, but it has more energy than that, although it's a little loosey-goosey.” I didn't have time to ask him what “loosey-goosey” meant, but I later looked it up and it means “relaxed, not tense.” I'm not sure that term is applicable. The stagey pretensions seem to actually make this version of Tolstoy's story stiffer and more formal rather than relaxed, especially in scenes where actors are frozen in place or where actors walk to the edge of the stage to hit their mark. I think maybe the clerk thought that loosey-goosey meant something more like looney-gooney or daffy-waffy, because this Anna Karenina is a little crazy. Tolstoy's Anna Karenina was a serious, mature, and intelligent woman, who may have been emotionally distraught about her situation, but she wasn't crazy even though she did commit suicide, but that was a surprise ending. The theater stage backdrop is done par excellence but it is often distracting, and the film works better in the scenes where the theater backdrop is not visible. Just when you think the director dropped the ruse, the footlights, rafters, ladders, ropes and pulleys are back. The actors are almost perfect--Keira Knightley is an exquisite Anna Karenina; Jude Law is a stern and forbidding Karenin; Alicia Vikander is an angelic Kitty; Domhnall Gleeson is a suffering, brooding, and faithful Levin; and Matthew Macfadyen is a hard-working and perfectly bourgeois aristocrat, civil servant, and family man. And then we have Count Vronsky, whose seductive powers are the pivot upon which this story has to rotate, but unfortunately, the director took some liberties that are a little shocking. When the producers of the Bond franchise decided to bet on a blonde Bond, they won. But a blonde Vronsky? Tolstoy's Vronsky had dark hair--he was handsome, elegant, perhaps angry, pondering, and tormented. If he was a bon vivant, it was not that evident. His fickleness and his vices were not an obvious aspect of his demeanor. You had to get to know him to find out that he was an untrustworthy cad, a scoundrel, a louse, and a worm. On the surface, he was a gentleman. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a good actor who played John Lennon a while back, but his rendering of Vronsky is a boyish, fun-loving rake, perhaps even a mama's boy, whose carefree attitude causes damage of which he is blissfully unaware. This Vronsky should not have turned the head of the virtuous, lofty, and married Anna Karenina. Also, the movie fails to portray the depth of the grief and despair that Vronsky caused Kitty when he visibly lost interest in her after one dance with Anna Karenina, nor does it do justice to Levin's inner torment when Kitty rejects him because she believes that Vronsky is about to propose to her. On the other hand, the portrayal of Anna's neurotic behavior may go a little too far in making her out to be mentally ill. I don't think Anna's behavior was meant to portray mental illness as much as it was meant to portray the consequences of Vronsky's amoral behavior (symbolized by him riding his beloved horse too hard and then having to shoot it), the inevitable outcome of an affair based mostly on physical attraction, and the destructive power of social ostracization. The stage-set theatricality is artistically pleasing, but it burdens the film, causing it to be drawn out in slow motion, making for a long and tedious decline of this noble and tragic literary heroine. Expand
  9. Mar 12, 2013
    It doesn't have the same feel as many of the other Joe Wright films, which is really disappointing. It follows the messy path of an imperfect adaptation focusing more on visuals than a smooth moving plot. Compared to must or all of Wright's films, Anna Karenina is a mess.
  10. Mar 9, 2013
    Keira Knightley, Aaron Johnson and Domhnall Gleeson give great performance and the costumes are beautiful but the film is not as good as Pride&Prejudice or Atonement. It's kind of claustrophobic because it is basically set in one location and this does not help the movie.
  11. Feb 26, 2013
    Per mettere in scena l’ennesima versione del romanzo forse più conosciuto di Tolstoj, Joe Wright e il suo sceneggiatore Tom Stoppard seguono una via che, pur non originalissima in sé, si dimostra assai efficace nell’evitare il pericolo della banale rilettura. Tutto il film idealmente ambientato in un piccolo teatro di provincia, in cui va in scena la rappresentazione di una società ottocentesca basata sull’apparenza e sull’ipocrisia, tanto che solo a Levin (un bravo Domhnall Gleeson), l’unico che rifiuta la parte già scritta per lui dall’ambiente in cui vive, concesso di uscirne. Per farlo, utilizza la grande porta che si apre, con bella intuizione, sul fondale del teatro, mentre gli ingressi laterali consentono agli altri personaggi di accedere agli ambienti privati; la platea, invece, di volta in volta stazione ferroviaria, sala da ballo oppure ippodromo (e i treni in viaggio sono dei modellini come quelli con cui gioca il figlio di Anna, Serhoza). Malgrado qualche sbandamento (e mugugno) tra il pubblico, il marchingegno funziona, in special modo nela prima parte in cui l’unità di luogo mantenuta con più rigore: vi contribuiscono il ritmo regalato dal bel montaggio (Melanie Oliver) e ravvivato da un’attenta cura del colore e delle musiche (dell’italiano Dario Marianelli, candidato all’Oscar ma battuto da Mychael Danna per ‘Vita di Pi’). Un’operetta come dice con chiarezza Vronskij in cui spicca il vitalissimo ma amorale Oblonskij di Macfayden, infedele in amore e dispotico sul lavoro; quando esplode la passione tra Anna e Vronskij, la storia accentua invece il lato drammatico dirigendosi verso la fine che tutti ben conosciamo almeno quanto l’incipit che, però, non viene citato ma senza riuscire a sfuggire al minuetto sociale dominante. Anche qui prosegue il lavoro sul colore, che dai toni chiari dei primi, entusiasti amplessi si va sempre più scurendo con l’incupirsi della situazione: la crisi fra i due amanti culmina fra tappezzerie in blu elettrico e un’incapacità di fissarsi dritti in volto che lascia spazio solo a sguardi lanciati attraverso gli specchi. Una considerazione sulla coppia protagonista, quest’ultima, che ci porta alle dolenti note. Se appare inevitabile, e non particolarmente fastidioso, che molti aspetti del romanzo vengano semplificati capita quando si cerca di infilare un librone in poco più di centoventi minuti di film ciò che davvero funziona assai poco la chimica fra i due personaggi principali, che proprio non riesce a scattare: un passaggio a vuoto che danneggia una tematica importante come quella della passione nonostante le regole e la cui responsabilità ricade su di un’interpretazione che delude per più di un motivo: Nella sua divisa bianca, Aaron Taylor-Johnson un Vronskij più che altro decorativo in cui non si sa se siano più incongrui i capelli biondi o i baffetti posticci mentre Keira Knightley tende, come altre volte, ad andare sopra le righe in un ruolo già di suo abbastanza sovraccarico quando basterebbe lavorare sulla sua bellezza irregolare (dev’essere l’unica attrice di primo piano senza il sorriso ortodontico standard). Per fortuna che, accanto a loro, il resto del cast funzioni senza sbavature a partire dalla brillante prova di Jude Law che, dietro a barba e stempiatura, regala una bella intensità all’amarezza e ai dubbi di Karenin. Expand
  12. Feb 17, 2013
    At the opening, I was thrilled with the visual complexity of the stage play conceit, but all that could not lift the tedium. Why were all the actors spouting their lines in a bizarrely rushed and completely passionless manner? Barely a sense of humanity in there, and no one to like. Just some overly self-conscious, blatantly modern styling without a grip of the material.
  13. Feb 12, 2013
    Over stylized the story is lost in a vain directors journey into his own egotistical journey. Art for arts sake, Tolstoy would turn in his grave. There is no chemistry between the actors, Kiera knightly is much better than this movie.
  14. Feb 10, 2013
    I love Russian literature, read the book long time ago and was very much looking forward to see this movie. To set the story in a theater was a risk that I don't think paid of. It made the movie kind of busy in an unpleasant way. On the other hand the cast especially Vronsky was great. To me Aaron Johnson IS Vronsky.
  15. Feb 4, 2013
    Im very sorry for not only the screenplay but also and specially for keira's performance. It was over done sometimes and on the rest it was flat, just like her chemistry with her lover. A train rack!
  16. Feb 3, 2013
    I am russian. I read 'Anna Karenina'. And you know what this film left mixed impression. Everything is according to Tolstoy, the actors are brilliant, however the director afforded himself to add a thing of his own to the film every scene of the film was a scene in a theatre! That is nonsense, Tolstoy didn't write that... And only this director-made 'feature' made of the film almost a total bull***t. Whithout that 'feature' the film would be great. Expand
  17. Jan 23, 2013
    Walking out of this film, I wrote a single line at the end of my notes for my review:
  18. Jan 21, 2013
    Storyline: This is a period drama set in 19th century Russia. Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) starts an affair with Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) while Anna's husband (Jude Law) starts to see the signs and hear rumours of it. The style and way this film has been made is a really good idea as it's a sort of movie/stage-play hybrid with sets being changed on screen but the effect is great to watch.

    Acting: Keira Knightley appeared to be in her element playing Anna. Aaron Tylor-Johnson is a very versatile actor and looks as good playing a Russian count as he does a super hero. Matthew Macfadyen who is better known in the UK than the US seemed very comfortable in his role as Oblonsky. I really liked Jude Law as the long suffering husband and think he just gets better with each film. Kelly MacDonald as Dolly was also good, in fact there is a lot of well known talent in minor roles but everyone is performing as if it's the role of a lifetime.

    Direction: Joe Wright has clearly put his stamp on this with creative long takes and plenty going on like the ballroom scene which was amazing to watch. The music was used to great effect to and together made this a true Joe Wright movie.

    Production: The cinematography by Seamus McGarvey (Avengers & We Need To Talk About Kevin) was brilliant and the Oscar nomination is well deserved. The wardrobe and make-up are also particularly good as you would expect on a movie like this but they were above par I would say.

    Conclusion: I don't normally watch this type of film but Kelly MacDonald in a Joe Wright flik made this a 'must see' for me and also nominated for an Oscar. I'm so glad I did. Recommended Score: 7.5/10
  19. Jan 19, 2013
    Anna Karenina is one of the most famous tales of infidelity, but too bad the film couldn't illicit the passion our heroine, Anna, and her lover supposedly felt. Most of the performances were as icy as the environs of Russia. Keira Knightly and cast (Jude Law being the only exception) stifled what could have been an emotionally rich and outlandish film, and Joe Wright
  20. Dec 28, 2012
    While the movie was completely different than I expected, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a work of art rather than just any other movie. It was a true film! Wright executed the story perfectly and incorporated the personality of the time period of Russia perfectly. His approach put a wonderful spin on the film. With every passing second I felt like I was the most fortunate human alive to be watching such a masterpiece. Expand
  21. Dec 9, 2012
    I was pleasantly surprised by this film - it's much more interesting and artistic than I thought it would be, given the source material. I love the use of the theater convention in telling the story. Knightly is terrific, but her supporting actors carry much of the load and do a wonderful job in the process.
  22. Dec 9, 2012
    Visually sumptious - The production design and costumes are truly beautiful and the film does look a million dollars - this version of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is a triumph. Imaginitively and boldly directed within a theatre setting, Joe Wright elicits a good performance from Keira Knightley (who always seems to walk a tightrope between good and bad in her films) and a scene stealing performance from Jude Law as her betrayed husband. Beautiful and underrated the film rewards an audience prepared to wait for the gradual unfolding. Knightley certainly gets better the longer she inhabits the character. Another plus is the lush music score by Dario Marianelli which quitely adds volumes to the atmosphere of what is taking place on screen. Expand
  23. Dec 9, 2012
    If you want Tolstoy as arty fiction first and tragedy a distant second then you might like this. If you want a story told straight you won't. By focusing on staging the story as a play inside a play, rather than telling the tale as a novel the result was to pull me away from all the characters. I even yearned for Anna to go to the station much more quickly than she did. The choice for Vronsky was a poor one, all blond mustache and little macho, and Knightley's straying upper lip always distracts me. If I'd wanted to see the bloody thing on stage I'd have gone to a theatre, not a cinema. Expand
  24. Dec 8, 2012
    I think this was a well done adaptation. It is very conceptual and as fantastical as this story could have been. Each scene transition took them back into a theatre as if we were watching a play, and then it would often transform into real life from a stage with backdrops. There's also many scenes where the characters are in a theatre audience, but are in a setting that wouldn't actually be in a theatre, eg the horse race scene. I think the point of this was to keep it interesting and intriguing, since this could have been a very boring movie. They did a good job keeping it from being boring. I loved looking at all the beautiful costumes, which is always the best part of a period movie. I would recommend the movie, just don't expect to come out of it in a cheery mood. It's far from a comedy. Collapse
  25. Dec 3, 2012
    The costumes by Jacqueline Durran are sumptuous , the production design by Sarah Greenwood head spinning and the original music by Dario Marianelli is at times as frantic as the editing is and at other times very operatic. The camera loves Keira Knightley, as Anna Karenina, just as much as Keira Knightley loves the camera. Jude Law, as her cuckolded husband, gives the best performance in the film and 20 years ago would have played her lover, Vronsky, bringing more fire, looks and chemistry to the role than does Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

    Whether it is the concept of the screenplay by the world famous playwright Tom Stoppard and/or the director Joe Wright, based on the even more famous novel by Leo Tolstoy, the novelty of staging it as a play, using every nook and cranny of a theatre, very quickly falls flat and takes you out of the story just as Wright goes outside the theatre too many times. At times it seems like an opera, operetta or musical theatre without songs being sung. At times you find yourself counting the costume changes by Anna and Vronsky trying to see who accomplishes the most and there are a lot. In some scenes costume changes are stylistic which is intriguing at first but then, sadly, like the movie, becomes boring.

    There are many roles in the film but the more prominent are Matthew Macfadyen as Anna
  26. Dec 3, 2012
    Joe Wright, director of this version of the Tolstoy classic, has chosen to emphasize the theatrical nature of the period by setting most of the locations in a theatre: on stage, backstage and in the house. This sometimes creates a flowing, dancelike style that harkens to Luhrmann and Fellini. It also gets in the way of creating a cohesive and moving experience. Some of the scenery and all of the costumes are stunning. The performers do nicely, but the fervor that should drive the drama is uneven. Expand
  27. Dec 2, 2012
    Tolstoy must be "turning over in his grave" if he saw what has been done to his book. The acting is ok although Jude Law really did a fine job, but Knightly has really overplayed her role to the point of laughter at her emoting. But mostly Stoppard has turned a fine literary work into something laughable. The costuming is lovely, and the choreography is much overdone-it looks foppish. Vrovsky is portrayed often as a gay blade. If there is one film to be missed this season, this is it. Expand
  28. Nov 30, 2012
    This adaptation of Tolstoy's novel is neither literal nor reverent--it is inspired. Using stage sets (the Maryinsky Theatre in Petersburg, I think) to represent the strictures of society and bureaucracy, the film allows its characters to break out only through passion (Anna and Vronsky) or dedication (Levin and Kitty). This method allows Stoppard (script) and Wright (direction) to serve Tolstoy's genius without suppressing their own. This could seem too schematic, but the actors bring it all to life. Beautiful, brilliant, unforgettable. Expand
  29. Nov 25, 2012
    Wonderful idea in the filming of this A.K. and I really enjoyed something new to give me pause to think for a few moments if I liked it. Result! I loved it. If your not into change then don't see it as it will turn you upside down.
  30. Nov 25, 2012
    Really difficult to sit through. Plodding and wandering. Took awhile to figure out the supporting characters. Keira Knightly is lovely to look at but there is no chemistry or passion or anything to grab onto with her lover. The story is so convoluted that I was tempted to walk out after 30 min., but i stuck it out.

Generally favorable reviews - based on 41 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 41
  2. Negative: 1 out of 41
  1. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Nov 30, 2012
    That storytelling, however, is uneven, ranging from something approaching tedium to moments that are downright wonderful (such as the sweetest of scenes, involving two young lovers -- played by and Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson -- and a stack of children's blocks).
  2. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Nov 29, 2012
    The arc of the 800-page novel, crammed into 130 minutes, becomes a line as flat as the heart monitor of a dead patient. A story that ought to possess the mad grandeur of an opera acquires the tedious regularity of soap opera.
  3. Reviewed by: Connie Ogle
    Nov 29, 2012
    Wright's film is visually stimulating to be sure, but he never loses sight of the raw human emotions that make Anna Karenina a classic.