If you’re a lover of drama, great acting, and fabulous costuming, you’re going to love this screen adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Brought to the small screen by the Weinstein Company and BBC, War & Peace stars Paul Dano (Love and Mercy, Prisoners), Lily James (Cinderella), and James Norton (Rush) alongside an excellent supporting cast of new and familiar faces, like Gillian Anderson (X-Files) and Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Moulin Rouge).
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, War & Peace hits similar notes: a lot of characters to keep up with whose webs become increasingly more tangled with one another; incestuous siblings who strive for money and power; and the constant manipulation and deceit that comes with either having or wanting the most money, land, and power.
Pierre Bezukhov (Dano), the illegitimate son of a Russian count, comes into his father’s title and fortune after his untimely death, despite the best efforts of his confidantes to steal the wealth for themselves. All Bezukhov wants is to do the right thing and find love. He’s awkward and child-like, finding wonder in the things others around him quickly disregard. He has good intentions and a kind heart, both of which ultimately blind him to the manipulations of those he believes are his closest allies. Dano has a knack for this kind of doe-eyed and unassuming characters – think of his performances in Prisoners, Knight and Day, and most recently Love & Mercy. But, we know from 12 Years A Slave that he also has the skillset to play ruthlessness just as well – a path for which his Bezukhov could be destined (I haven’t read the book).
Lily James brings a certain likability to Countess Natasha Rostova, a hopeless romantic who shoots before she thinks and challenges men in her own way – unusual qualities in a 19th-century woman. She has similar qualities to Bezukhov, and they are a couple you want to see together from their first meeting on-screen (though it’s clear they’ve known each other for years). They both speak their mind and challenge popular opinion while still maintaining an air of (quickly fading) innocence.
It’s a limited TV series composed with movie-like intentions: the cinematography is beautifully done, the costuming and set design is rich, and the acting is well executed by all parties. It was no surprise the British premiere knocked the ratings out of the park and it certainly will not be a surprise when it’s nominated at the Emmys and Golden Globes upon eligibility.
War & Peace premieres at 9pm ET TONIGHT on Lifetime, A&E, and History.