February 9, 2008

Golden Globe/Oscar nominee review #4: Atonement

Atonement - Romola Garai, Keira Knightley, James McAvoy ATONEMENT

Directed by: Joe Wright

Released by: Universal Pictures, Working Title Productions, Focus Features

Noms: Oscar Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Globes Best Picture - Drama, Best Actress - Drama, Best Actor - Drama, Best Supporting Actress - Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Original Score

Wins: Globes Best Picture - Drama, Best Original Score

Tomatometer: 82%

In a nutshell: It's a successful adaptation of Ian McEwan's widely lauded tale of war, lies and romance in World War II. The actors, especially newcomer Saoirse Ronan, give the film good performances that match the art direction and wondrous cinematography. And I fell in love with the score, by the way.

Back from re-creating Jane Austen's arguably most famous novel Pride and Prejudice does Joe Wright adapt yet another one, this time from Ian McEwan's acclaimed Atonement. It has become one of the books that belong to the "best books of all-time" lists of many, so it's no surprise that expectations are pretty high.

The director faces the challenge, and creates a piece of art that not only gets the scattered sequencing right, but also lets the viewer feel the guilt that rages inside Briony Tallis, the main character. OK, so why is she guilty again?

It all starts with a letter. Robbie (James McAvoy) writes this as an apology for his bad behavior towards Cecilia (a VERY thin Keira Knightley) in an earlier scene and gets Briony to give it to her. But when he realizes that he has put the wrong letter in the envelope, his eyes widen in outrage and Briony reads it. She then misinterprets him for a maniac and when her cousins get lost, hell breaks loose and Robbie is wrongly accused of a crime he definitely did not commit. World War II rages, the family breaks and mistrusts the maid and her son, Cecilia runs away, and Briony finally grows up. Knowing the damage she has done to the lives of everyone concerned, she is determined to atone for that particular deed. The rest, as they say, is history.So much for that summary (which I re-wrote 3 times). Anyway, the first thing I've fallen in love with is the score which gives the film a new layer and light. Each score that plays fit the character or scene, and it just makes everything so much better. (THANK YOU, DARIO MARINELLI.) I also love newcomer Saoirse Ronan's performance as the 8 year old Briony Tallis. Yeah, the character is played by 3 different actors to represent different age groups, but Ronan's part weighs a lot heavier than the others and is therefore commendably believable.

As for the other actors, they also portray each others' characters satisfactorily. The fury that spews out of Robbie when he sees the 18-year old Briony again, the disappointment that Cecilia feels when she learns of Robbie's arrest- these are just some of the best moments you'll see and feel with the characters.
Plus, even with the fact that my eyes are more hypnotized with Sweeney Todd's art direction, the art direction you'll see in this film is nonetheless wonderful, and the cinematography is equally wonderful. And I'm not just saying that for the fact that the film's nominated for those aspects.
As a whole, Atonement is adapted with much success and the Dario Marianelli's score is just torrent-worthily hypnotizing. If you want something worthwhile, and not to mention wonderfully dark, watch this. Who knows? You might not even dare lie again.

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