3 hours ago
09 December 2007
I'll be shocked if "Atonement" doesn't get nominated for best picture. The movie completely exceeded my expectations (which were pretty high to begin with) and, nine hours later, I'm still thinking about some of its arresting images and the mechanics of the plot.
Without giving anything away for those of you who haven't read the book, the movie begins in summer 1935 on a country estate in England. Thirteen-year-old Briony (played by newcomer Saoirse Ronan, who is incredible here) and her sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley, who surprised me and impressed me a lot) are trying to stay cool in the long afternoon before their older brother comes home for a visit. In the course of that afternoon, Briony, to steal a line used in the film, "sees something that she doesn't understand, but she thinks she does," the consequences of which will change her life, Cecilia's life, and the life of the family groundskeeper Robbie (James McAvoy), who once studied at Cambridge with Cecilia.
I thought this movie did a great job of adapting the book but went above and beyond the (impeccable) source material with arresting visuals (Briony in a white dress, creeping through a dark house), intricate camera work and the symphonic but never heavy-handed score by Dario Marianelli. My greatest fear going in was that this movie would hew very closely to the conventions of costume drama, and I'm happy to report that this was not the case. The costumes were beautiful, but they worked in service to the story. I've seen a few two-hour movies in the past year, but this is the first one for which I can say, there is not a shot, not a moment here that is wasted. I have to give credit for that to director Joe Wright, whose adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" I liked but is working on a whole new level here.
I already can't wait to see "Atonement" again. If you've seen the movie, I'm leaving a few spoiler-ish notes in the comments, because there is so much about this movie I am burning to talk about. Hopefully it will expand to wide-release soon, so you all can see it.
Photo: NY Post movie blog