Saturday, January 19, 2008


DAN - Atonement is the newest film from Joe Wright, director of the recent adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. James McAvoy plays a man who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit by a little girl whose imagination and perception distort the truth. Kiera Knightley co-stars as McAvoy’s love interest who is separated from him on the brink of World War II.

At first glance, this film may seem like any other period romance, but it is something else entirely. The elements of cinema are used to surprising effect in this film; the editing, musical score, acting, cinematography, and direction are all in the hands of people who know how to use them. The result is an innovative film the likes of which I’ve rarely experienced.

Dario Marianelli’s score serves as an invigorating undercurrent for the film. It weaves in and out of the diegetic world, often directly coinciding with the characters’ thoughts and actions. The cast, particularly Knightley and McAvoy, deliver convincing and seemingly effortless performances.

The film is written and directed in beautiful fashion, creating a narrative that presents itself in multiple perspectives and various time periods. Director Wright and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey know how to use the camera to draw an audience into the film; the visual composition and physical movement of the camera combine to invite the viewer to experience the film from within.

The film’s themes of love, atonement, and the impact of imagination create a dramatic experience worthy of revisiting. It contains moments of humor, romance, hatred, and sorrow that are likely to have a powerful impact on any individual as it did for me.


STEVE - Adapted from Ian McEwan’s novel, Atonement has the essentials needed to make a great piece of cinema. All the elements are there. Terrific performances from actor James McAvoy actress Keira Kinghtley, and thirteen year old Saoirse Ronan, moving music, gorgeous cinematography, and an overall well executed film.

The film starts strong, with director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice) using his skilled talents behind the camera to bring the story to life. Acting, dialogue, and plot are top notch here as the film begins and the story gains its momentum. However, once the plot has been built, the audience is thrown into the future four years later. From this point the story does a lot of jumping back and forth between past and present and here is where things began to fall apart for me. The momentum is slowed as you’re continually being tossed from past to present, virtually to a point where you’re not sure where exactly you are in the story line, and sadly you begin to stop caring. The script just doesn’t keep you interested.

Oddly enough, with that setback in mind, the performances and direction remain strong and the cinematography never lets up on being amazing. Actually it improves. There is a marvelous scene on the beaches of France that is filmed all in one shot and is absolutely incredible. I’m willing to bet that cinematographer Seamus McGarvey is going to be up for an Oscar nomination.

The movie does end on a strong note, bringing together everything in a nice neat package, even though during the second-half I felt like I was left stranded in the middle nowhere. Without a doubt Atonement is a skillfully made film with all the makings of an epic romance, but it’s not quite that epic.

1 comment:

fishbowl said...

Let me start by saying it's wonderful to see you guys keeping up with newer films. It's a pleasure to read your comments.

Regarding this batch of reviews, I must say I whole-heartedly agree with Dan and wonder what movie Stephen was watching. Now, let me preface the following comments with this: it's much easier and cowardly for me to argue via blog comments on the other side of the country.

I was never lost in this film. In fact, the jumping back and forth actually increased my interest. The flashback of Briony almost drowning and subsequent rescue fleshed out the young Briony's stake in Robbie. Clearer relationship. So when the 18 year reflects on her crush to her friend, we become all the more aware of the shock she felt as a child reading the letter and the pain and regret she now feels is more compelling. She loves her sister. But she had feelings for Robbie that anyone who had a crush at 13 can relate to. So close to them at 13, but at 18 so far away.
But that's just one instance.

Even though the film has those flashbacks, I think the plot is clear. It moves linearly throughout Briony's life. And how does she reveal her loved one's fates? Through story. Making the flashbacks and voice over fit perfectly.

I saw There Will be Blood and Atonement in the same week with different levels of anticipation for each, but the surprising thing was how personal Atonement was to me. I can't claim to have experienced such tragedy and turmoil, but the characters were so rich that they got under my skin (in a good way). I cared about the love story. I liked the characters and the themes. And with There Will be Blood, I spent so much time with such horrible people that I too felt horrible leaving the movie. That was a well made, excellent movie, but I don't really ever need to see it again. Atonement demands multiple viewings. It's that good and rewarding.