Saturday, December 8, 2007


There are multiple levels of drama and subtext going on during Atonement that basically broadside you. You don’t see the ending coming because you’re distracted by the layers before. All of a sudden there’s a time shift decades to a conclusion that’s devastating with a quaint summation of humanity.
Keira Knightley and James McAvoy topline while the character of Briony Tallis is played by three actors. The young Briony, not unlike the grandmother in Cold Comfort Farm, sees something nasty, in this case not in the woodshed but rather in the garden fountain.
A period drama set in the years leading up to and including WWII Atonement grabs your attention with the following: repeated shots of people in water, perhaps in negligees or bathing in a tub, again perhaps diving into a dirty lake; a soundtrack that uses a typewriter percussion track to propel the action; and the constant repetition of certain images not unlike the mind trying to erase a constant memory.
McAvoy, the goatboy from Chronicles of Narnia but also the impressive lead of The Last King of Scotland, is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and gets the shaft. But his service during the war has a way of healing even while killing. The most impressive technical part of Atonement comes during the war sequences.
A non-stop continuous take shows tens of thousands of Brit troops evacuating to the Bray Dunes in June of 1940. The camera swirls from tableau (horses being executed, jeeps having their radiators smashed, nothing is left for Jerry) to tableau in such an accomplished manner you forget this was once a Masterpiece Theater romance.


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