Sun 6 Jan 2008
If you’re wondering Keira, I am single … why aren’t you surprised?
Director (Joe Wright)
Actor (James McAvoy)
Supporting Actress (Saoirse Rohan)
Score (Dario Marianelli)
Editing (Paul Tothill)
Art Direction (Ian Bailie)
Drawing enough critical praise to light a small city, “Atonement” seems poised to factor into the upcoming awards season. Thankfully, some films do deliver on their hype and this is definitely one of them.
Based on the novel by Ian McEwan, it’s the story of star-crossed lovers torn apart by the actions of an adolescent girl. The film primarily takes place in WWII England but also spans the course of their lives.
What I liked a lot about the film was its twist on lineal storytelling. While I’m not sure if it was portrayed this way in the novel, director Joe Wright chose to show pivotal scenes from multiple points of view, reminding the audience that seeing something happen and actually knowing what happened are two different things. This has been done before but it was used expertly here and provides a storytelling perspective that kept the film from being just another romance film, plodding along from point to point.
The acting is all done very well, most notably by James McAvoy. Clearly one of the better actors in his generation, with excellent performances already in “The Last King of Scotland” and “Rory O’Shea Was Here”, his character exudes complexity without having to utter a line of dialogue. And when given some of the many well-written lines in the script, McAvoy makes each word count.
Of course, in order to look good on screen, it helps when the other actors are also putting in their due diligence. Keira Knightley has done a nice job of choosing roles that suit her and allow an audience to easily believe her characters (though I wish she’d eat a muffin or something … did she contract some kind of wasting syndrome from Saffron Burrows?).
However, while Knightley does a good job, it is newcomer Saoirse Ronan that binds the film together (her name is Irish for freedom and pronounced “sur-shuh” in case you were interested). Saoirse’s character drives the plot along and it is mainly her point of view that the film is told from. As the film spans the course of their lives, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave take over ably for the character and kudos to them for providing consistency.
Adding to the film’s excellence are the people behind the scenes. The production design was absolutely top notch and the set pieces used for WWII in France were stunning (a long, gorgeously done one-shot camera move helped show this element off).
The costume design was wonderful and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see some of Keira’s clothes done as knock-offs sometime around Oscar season. Also, the editing was done very well, helping to make the scenes shown from a different perspective fit into the framework of the film, keeping it from feeling too gimmicky.
Well, I’ve blown enough smoke up this film’s posterior and done what I could to keep from giving away the story. Let’s just get on with the rating, shall we? I’m giving “Atonement” a 5 out of 5. Every element of the film was done superbly and anyone who enjoys their romantic dramas with a period feel will find a lot to like here.