What a fun movie this was! Kudos to Kenneth Branagh for successfully bringing this classic fairy tale to life without once having it fall into the trappings of schmaltzy-ness or over-saccharinity. But biggest respect goes to the indomitable Cate Blanchett whose deliciously and campily evil Stepmother - with the most gorgeous gowns (and hats!!) - easily upstaged the genuine naïveté of Lily James' Cinderella.
Director Branagh and writer Christ Weitz has given this familiar story a fresh spin, but not too much such that it becomes forced. The story moved along in an easy, snappy and breezy pace with just the right amount of spanner thrown in to keep things fresh enough.
The gorgeous - musical-friendly - score by Patrick Doyle and the beautiful lensing by Haris Zambarloukos definitely helped the whole experience.
However, none of these would be possible without the two female leads.
James - an unlikely choice for our eponymous heroine, but she fit the re-imagined role like a glove. Just the right amount of prettiness and ernest-ness, mixed in with pluck and innocence. She endeared herself to the audience right from the get-go, and even though we all know how the story end, we are now interested in how it gets there. We become interested in Cinderella's story.
James had great chemistry with Richard Madden (oh, hello there Robb Starke! You look much better without all that facial hair!) and that helped to sell their romance. It does not hurt that Madden's piercing blue eyes kind of matches the colour theme of our girl.
And we have Blanchett. Can this woman not do much wrong (I am ignoring Indiana Jones IV)? She is such a delight to watch and brought some amount of humanity and pain into another wise flat, one-dimensional villain. And did I mention that she looked absolutely stunning throughout!
That is another highlight of the show! The costumes (especially Blanchett's) and hair & makeup were sumptuous and never too OTT. Even Cinderella's blue dress that were all over the promo pics worked well when taken into the context of the movie (not so much as a still picture).
Even the CGI animals were cute enough to be not overbearing.
A great film for all ages and gender, but of course more gender-skewed towards one end.