Generally favorable reviews - based on 41 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 112 Ratings

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  • Starring: , , ,
  • Summary: The story unfolds in its original late-19th-century Russia high-society setting and powerfully explores the capacity for love that surges through the human heart, from the passion between adulterers to the bond between a mother and her children. As Anna questions her happiness, change comes to her family, friends, and community. (Focus Features) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 41
  2. Negative: 1 out of 41
  1. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Nov 15, 2012
    While Wright's self-conscious theatricality and dollhouse aesthetic conjure comparisons to Baz Luhrmann and Wes Anderson, he outstrips both those filmmakers in moral seriousness and maturity.
  2. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Nov 15, 2012
    Wright's extraordinary long takes draw you into the universe of Anna Karenina with a seamless approach that a straightforward literary adaptation could never accomplish.
  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.
  4. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Nov 14, 2012
    In making the radical artistic choice to tell the story as if it were being enacted by players on a stage, Wright falls passionately in love with his own fanciful artifices.
  5. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Nov 15, 2012
    At its most frantic the cutting and staging here veers perilously close to Baz Luhrmann "Moulin Rouge!" territory for comfort. ... I'd rather have seen Wright's carefully elaborated production on a stage, instead of in a movie partly on a stage.
  6. Reviewed by: Peter Bradshaw
    Sep 9, 2012
    The Wright/Stoppard Anna Karenina is not a total success, but it's a bold and creative response to the novel.
  7. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Nov 15, 2012
    You know there is something seriously wrong with Anna Karenina when you start rooting for the train.

See all 41 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 31
  2. Negative: 6 out of 31
  1. Nov 22, 2012
    Keira Knightley and Jude Law are extraordinary. Wright's unique and beautifully conceived version of the film, using Tom Stoppard's intelligent adaptation, struck me as perfect for rendering the depth and complexity of the story. The "artifice" of the setting, design and art direction are brought forth with sensitivity and satisfying wholeness. Highly, highly recommended for adults who want to participate in the construction of a wonderful film and story. Expand
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. Collapse
  6. 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. Expand
  7. 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. Expand

See all 31 User Reviews


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