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Anna Karenina (DQ)


Stars: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kelly Macdonald, Domhnall Gleeson, Olivia Williams, Alicia Vikander, Emily Watson, Matthew Macfadyen, Holliday Grainger, Alexandra Roach, Ruth Wilson, Susanne Lothar

Director: Joe Wright

A bold venture by director Wright, who takes Tolstoy's hoary old chestnut and turns it into a stylised theatrical event. Unfortunately, the actual stage is never far away and Wright's device, impressive at first, tends to become an annoying distraction as the film goes on. And on. For, like the previous versions with Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh, the tale simply hasn't the weight to sustain its length.

The (in)action is set in Russia in 1874 (the whole film looks wonderful), as Anna (Knightley), vivacious wife of government minister Karenin (Law) comes under the spell of the dashing, not to mention philandering Count Vronsky (foppishly played by Taylor-Johnson). Despite initial resistance, she is soon in his bed.

In a subplot, communal farm worker Levin (Gleeson) faces losing his childhood sweetheart (Vikander) who has also succumbed to the charms of Vronsky, before the latter transfers his advances to the beguiling Anna.

Faced with formidable shoes to fill from previous versions, Knightley is actually pretty good. It's just that you can't believe she would fall for this Vronsky as the roles are played. And Law certainly does all that we could expect of him as the cuckolded 'good man' who has lavished insufficient care and attention on his wife.

The supporting cast boasts a veritable welter of familiar (and talented) British actresses, none of whom lets the side down. No, it's the story itself that's the major culprit here. It's never made a really good film that would tear our emotions apart, and I doubt that it ever will. And, it must be said, a muffled climax doesn't help.

David Quinlan

UK/France 2012. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by deluxe.
130 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 03 Sep 2012