Part one of the miniseries ‘War And Peace’ aired on Lifetime on Jan. 18. If you missed it, should you watch? Well, here’s what the critics are saying.
Cinderella herself Lily James takes on the role of the stunning Natasha Rostova, while Paul Dano portrays Pierre Bezukhov, and James Norton plays Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. However, the A-listers don’t end there — Jim Broadbent will portray Andrei’s father Prince Bolkonsky, while Gillian Anderson will play Anna Pavlovna. So, is the four-night, eight hour adaptation worth watching?
The only real scenes with vigor and energy take place in battles between the Russian army and Napoleon’s forces, and the location shooting in Russia and elsewhere makes for some gorgeous interiors and exteriors. That said, if Paul Dano, Stephen Rea, Jim Broadbent, Gillian Anderson and Lily James can’t quite liven up the contours of a classic novel, something has gone terribly awry.
New York Times
Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” with its tale of aristocratic Russian families during the Napoleonic invasion in the early 1800s, would seem a natural for the small screen in the age of “Downton Abbey” and “Mad Men.” And the four-night, eight-hour adaptation that begins on Monday makes for a decent enough costume drama. Nothing in it, though, captures why “War and Peace” is considered by many to be one of the greatest novels ever written. In the United States the mini-series is being shown simultaneously on Lifetime, History and A&E. (Its producers include BBC Cymru Wales, and it has already begun in Britain.) The adaptation is by the veteran television writer Andrew Davies, who brings out the soap opera in Tolstoy’s impossibly long book — he especially has fun with a little incest subplot — but doesn’t bother with its big themes.
With its empire-waist gowns and scenes set in parlors and ballrooms and soldiers of better and worse moral quality coming and going and advantageous and disadvantageous matches being discussed and made, the miniseries plays much of the time like a Slavic version of Jane Austen (who was writing in the years when “War & Peace” is set), with more violence and less humorous irony. (“War and Peace” adapter Andrew Davies, at 79 still Britain’s go-to guy for 19th century literary adaptations, wrote the much-beloved Jennifer Ehle-Colin Firth version of “Pride and Prejudice.”) And though the fate of Russia is still very much on the characters’ minds, the main business in this version is personal and largely romantic — who ends up with whom in the end and who even makes it to the end.
Did you like part one of War and Peace? The next part airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime, A&E and History.