Director Joe Wright’s newest film is an origin story for Peter Pan and Captain Hook. A prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, it stars Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, Garrett Hedlund as James Hook, Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily and Levi Miller as the title character.
It’s a new take on an old tale, something Wright specializes in.
His versions of Pride and Prejudice and Anna Karenina are classic yet modern takes on their source materials, as sumptuously theatrical as they are emotionally fulfilling.
Perhaps growing up with puppet theatre proprietor parents can be credited for his dramatic bent, but wherever it came from, his work is unique and eye-catching and Pan promises more of the same.
Here’s a look at the Wright Stuff from his past films:
Set in pre-Second World War England, Atonement begins as an idyll. A rich family with two daughters, the fetching and flirty Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and 13-year-old Briony (Saoirse Ronan), are vacationing at their rural country home. The handsome son of the family’s housekeeper Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) is the object of affection for both girls, but he only has eyes for Cecilia. When Briony catches the two in a passionate embrace she is overcome by jealousy. To keep the lovers apart she impulsively comes up with a childish, but devastating plan to accuse him of a crime he didn’t commit.
Best eye candy moment: An astonishing continuous fiveminute shot of the nightmarish Dunkirk evacuation, complete with 1,000 extras, livestock, and a beached boat all captured in one steady cam shot. “Basically, I just like showing off,” he jokes.
The Soloist is based on the true story of Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a musical prodigy who developed schizophrenia during his second year at Juilliard School, and wound up living on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. Robert Downey Jr. plays Steve Lopez, a disenchanted Los Angeles Times columnist who discovers Ayers and bases a series of columns on Ayers and his life. Over time they form a friendship based on the liberating power of music.
Best eye candy moment: Wright loads the screen with artful pictures such as a symphony of colour that fills the screen whenever Nathaniel listens to a live symphony orchestra.
Anna Karenina, Russian writer Leo Tolstoy’s classic story of love, honour and deceit in 1974 Imperialist Russia begins with a family in tatters because of marital transgression. St. Petersburg aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) travels to Moscow to visit her womanizing brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) and his wife Dolly (Kelly Macdonald). Her counsel saves their marriage but the trip proves to be the undoing of hers.
Best eye candy moment: Every frame drips with beauty, from sets to clothes to Keira Knightley’s cheekbones, but the opening is a stunner, presenting what appears to be a stage production of Anna Karenina.
How do you breath life into the withered lungs of a period piece that has been told time and time again? If you’re “Anna Karenina” director Joe Wright you honor Leo Tolstoy’s book while staging the story of deception, honor and love at the intersection where reality and fantasy cross.
Russian writer Leo Tolstoy’s classic story of love, honor and deceit in 1974 Imperialist Russia begins with a family in tatters because of marital transgression. St. Petersburg aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) travels to Moscow to visit her womanizing brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) and his long-suffering wife Dolly (Kelly Macdonald). Her council saves their marriage but the trip proves to be the undoing of hers. She becomes smitten with the affluent Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a handsome military man and begins a torrid affair. Soon, however, she discovers that her indiscretion isn’t as easily dismissed as her brother’s.
The story itself is rather simple and has been told many times, what distinguishes this version, aside from the cast (more on that later), is the sumptuous staging. Every frame of the film drips with beauty, from the sets to the clothes to Knightley’s cheekbones. But that’s to be expected from a big retelling of the story. What really captures the eye–and the mind–is the unconventional way Wright has chosen to tell the tale.
The film opens on what appears to be a stage production of “Anna Karenina.” We see musicians, dancing and backstage activity. To further blur the line between reality and illusory we see Anna, Oblonsky and others going about their day. Imagine watching the “Anna Karenina” opera and you get the idea.
It is a brilliant piece of staging for a story that has enough passion and tragedy for two operas. More importantly the style doesn’t overwhelm the substance. The baroque tone established early on sets the stage, literally, for screenwriter Tom Stoppard’s sweeping story of betrayal, forgiveness and death. It is an epic but human story about the best and worst of behavior.
Leading the cast Knightley proves a natural for period pieces. She has a face meant to be framed by fur hats and veils but apart from looking the part she carefully modulates Anna’s descent from socialite to outcast with grace and dignity while allowing notes of frustration and misery to seep through.
Knightley has the showiest role but Jude Law also makes an impression despite showing considerable restraint in his take on Anna’s beleaguered husband Alexei Karenin.
Decked out in blonde curly hair Aaron Taylor-Johnson is almost unrecognizable from his best known role, playing John Lennon in “Nowhere Boy,” but as Count Vronsky he convincingly plays a confident man who allows self-gratification to ruin his life and Anna’s.
A lighter note is supplied by Matthew Macfadyen, whose élan and rakish charm turns the womanizing Oblonsky into one of the film’s high spots.
“Anna Karenina” is a grand film, both in story and style.