5. The Woman in the Window (2021)
When The Woman in the Window was first released, nobody knew what to make of it. Critical consensus seemed to be that the film was clunky, unimaginative, and a rip-off of some much better movies. While it does struggle to find its footing, it’s still intriguing, if not entirely successful in what it tries to achieve.
The film follows Amy Adams as Anna Fox, a child psychologist who, due to some unknown trauma, becomes agoraphobic, masking her pain with booze and pills. When a new family moves in across the street and Anna witnesses a crime in their townhouse, Anna begins to question if what she saw was a delusion or the truth.
The Woman in the Window suffers because it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It teeters between gritty psychological thriller and pure camp. If it committed to one or the other, the film’s tone would improve dramatically. As it stands, the film tries to juggle too much and it doesn’t handle the narrative transitions very well. It is worth noting that the movie follows the book it’s based upon, written by A.J. Finn, very closely.
The Woman in the Window is helped by some strong performances, including a brief, memorable cameo by Julianne Moore. While it doesn’t quite come together the way it should, the film is still a fun time and worth a watch.
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4. Anna Karenina (2012)
Anna Karenina, based on the classic novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy, tells the tragic tale of a woman (Keira Knightly) who embarks on a passionate, destructive affair with a young cavalry officer, Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).
Upon initial release, the film divided critics. While some praised the movie for being bold and inventive and highly stylized, others criticized Wright’s visual choices for distracting from the narrative.
Anna Karenina is breathtaking to look at, featuring costumes from famed designer Jacqueline Durran (Little Women), who won the Oscar for Best Costume Design, and production design from Sarah Greenwood, MVP of the stunning sets on Barbie (2023). Anna Karenina is a shining example of the sheer power of the visual language of cinema. Wright’s decision to shoot the entire film on a sound stage built to look like a theater is certainly eye-catching and creates some truly beautiful imagery.
The film features a stacked cast from the delightful Matthew Macfadyen to the sweet Alicia Vikander, and Jude Law gives a quiet, sinister performance as Anna’s husband. Keira Knightly, of course, holds it all together and Wright seems particularly good at continuously getting fantastic performances out of her.
Wright’s highly stylized take on such a beloved and historically important novel might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but with strong visual language and killer performances from the whole cast, Anna Karenina transcends its faults.
3. Hanna (2011)
Partnering once again with Saoirse Ronan, following her breakout role as Briony Tallis in 2007’s Atonement, Joe Wright’s action thriller Hanna tells the story of a young girl living in the unforgiving wilderness of northern Finland with her father, Erik (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA operative, who has trained Hanna in hand-to-hand combat. When Hanna decides she is ready to assassinate CIA officer, Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett), who wishes to see her dead, Hanna travels across the world in search of answers to who she really is and what she will become.
Hanna is a sleek, energetic action movie with a pulsing score from the English electronic music duo, The Chemical Brothers. They assist director Joe Wright’s pacing, which is spot on as the film races toward its deadly conclusion.
While the movie is certainly heavy on chase sequences, it never loses its heart. Wright manages to strike a balance between its action and its coming-of-age story, beautifully told through the emotive eyes of his young lead star.
Ronan is such an obvious talent now, having been nominated for four Academy Awards all before the age of 30, and it’s so much fun to watch her younger self go up against the likes of Cate Blanchette and stand her ground. The movie also features a strong performance from Eric Bana as well as Tom Hollander, whose range as an actor never ceases to amaze.
In the end, Hanna may ask more questions than it answers, but it is still a fun and worthwhile ride all the way to the end.
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