Anna Karenina Review: A Dusty Tale Is Revived by Inventive Filmmaking

11/17/2012 at 05:00 PM EST

Anna Karenina and Keira Knightley: Old Story Revived by New Filmmaking
Keira Knightley
Courtesy Focus Features

Jude Law

Jude Law

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Don't yawn yet.

Granted, after a century of adaptations, we have a right to be tired of Tolstoy's Russian society wife, Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley), who ditches her life for playboy Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). But surely there's room in our hard, literary hearts for a film this audacious?

To emphasize the artifice of Anna's world, director Joe Wright and writer Tom Stoppard set much of the film onstage, the actors gliding as if choreographed. It's like a musical, minus the singing.

The gimmick – and at bottom, that's what it is – makes Anna's stiff husband, Karenin (a fantastic Jude Law), more relatable, even as it blunts the emotional impact of Knightley's fine turn.

But perhaps the best thing about this Anna is that it plays up the novel's other couple, Kitty (Alicia Vikander) and Levin (Domhnall Gleeson). They're the true romantics.

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