Anna Karenina

Rated 4.0

Tolstoy's oft-filmed tale of adultery in Imperial Russia gets a daring treatment from writer Tom Stoppard and director Joe Wright: The movie takes place in an ornate, slightly run-down theater, an apt metaphor for Imperial Russia itself, and for the rigidly structured conventions of upper-class society. As Anna, Keira Knightley is as alarmingly assertive as ever, her performance growing stronger as Anna grows ever more neurotic. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays her lover, the dashing cavalry officer Vronsky, as a callow pretty-boy, while Jude Law makes her stiff-necked, conventional husband more than the standard cardboard villain. Stoppard and Wright presume a passing familiarity with Russian literature—which may have been reckless of them—but the result, if you're open to it, is bracing and stimulating. J.L.