Monday, March 31, 2008


Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007) [5]
Perhaps it has to do with my personal taste in films that this had an unfair disadvantage to start. I'm no fan of stuffy, upper crusty British films (with a very few exceptions) and there was no way I was going to fawn over this to begin with. Still, I ask what's so great about this film that got critics falling all over themselves to praise it? It looks good and of course it has all the elegant period details but the one thing that most cite about it, the passionate love story, I found almost none of. There is nothing remarkably enthralling about the romantic relationship between Robbie (James MacAvoy) and Cecilia (Keira Knightley), other than the now notable fountain scene, which the sexual tension sparks across the screen. Outside of that, the rest if pretty dull and standard. That may be my prejudices coming out, but then again, these are personal reviews. It was going to take a great deal to win me over with this film, but Wright's direction almost did. The first main segment of the film, before the act that turns around the film, is well crafted in regards to shots and the staccato typewriter soundtrack that really ratchets up the tension. While from a craft perspective it works, from a story one it does not. Not to reveal any spoilers to those who haven't seen it, but the mix-up/event (the letter) that propels the story into its second arc borders on ridiculous and clumsy by the characters of the film. I haven't read the novel to see how its handled but it feels like a cheap convenience. I understand the emotion background of the letter but the execution of the situation doesn't fly right by me. Things only become more drab as the film progresses through the years. Once again, there's nothing in any of the performances to sell me on believing anything these characters think or feel. Wright also looses his footing by throwing in a extremely long tracking shot that shouts "look at me!" but has no relevance to the story. Anybody portraying Briony outside of Saorise Ronan doesn't work. The ending, while appearing clever, isn't. It all results in a film that is another pristine yet sterile class picture about period Britain. If you happened to like Atonement, you may be right; but, this is a type of film I find all too easy to dislike.

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