First Hit: Unfortunately a failed attempt at a stylized version of a great story.
A great love story has to begin with chemistry.
Here, we have a beauty (and I mean this) in Keira Knightley (playing Anna) repelling her husband Jude Law (playing Karenin) for Aaron Taylor-Johnson (playing Vronsky).
This premise just didn’t work. Although Taylor-Johnson is handsome enough there wasn’t any chemistry with Knightly. On the other hand, when you have an unshaven Law playing her husband with his sublime sense, one wonders did they mix up the roles. Anyway, this was only part of the problem with this film. It does this odd thing of flip-flopping between being a play in a theater, using the theater as a backdrop, and then dropping the theater aspect altogether and we're in a real life scene.
This mistake of switching venues and perspectives takes away from the story because one’s mind has to readjust to the story – again and again. Why make a Tolstoy story even more complicated? Was Knightley the right person to play Anna? Probably not, because when I read the book (some 30 years ago) I pictured a woman who was older and maybe more weighty and round.
Additionally Law didn’t seem 20 years older than Knightly as the story describes. The other story in this book is between Princess “Kitty” (played by Alicia Vikander) and Levin (played by Domhnall Gleeson) is a little more romantic and there is actually some chemistry in their relationship as the film moves towards its ending. I found it amusing that the nicest people in the film are Karenin and Levin.
Knightley, was miscast but her performance was one of the strongest in this film. Law had an uninteresting role but his inner beauty and strength did shine. Gleeson was the most interesting character in the film but that isn’t saying a whole lot. Taylor-Johnson did not hold up the role as the “to die for lover”. Vikander was good. Tom Stoppard wrote a tired screenplay from a great book. Joe Wright got mixed up early on as to what type of film he was making and it showed.
Overall: Don’t bother to watch this film.