I have been battling it out in my head as to whether or not I believe Atonement is the best movie I have seen in 2007 and all signs point to yes. Granted I am yet to see There Will Be Blood, but the way director Joe Wright has carefully crafted this film into what it is is nothing short of amazing. From the production design, the cinematography, the music, the acting and the directing this movie absolutely hits on all aspects of perfect filmmaking leaving absolutely no doubt as to its excellence.
The film is based on the bestselling novel by Ian McEwan beginning in the year 1935. The story is quite simple, but the telling of it is a twisted masterpiece that at one moment feels like utter Hollywood cheese, but at the very next turn hits you over the head with an ending that will leave you stunned.
We are first introduced to 13-year-old Briony Tallis, played by Saoirse Ronan whom I can’t wait to see in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones as little Susie. Briony is a novice writer and is currently working on a play she wrote, but her imagination is about to go too far. Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) is the educated son of the Tallis family housekeeper and he has a watchful eye on the older Tallis sister, Cecilia played be Keira Knightley. One day Briony misinterprets a secret letter from Robbie to Cecilia, vividly spelling out his love sending Briony into a fit of childish jealousy. Later that night she takes advantage of the opportunity to accuse Robbie of a crime he did not commit, ultimately shaping the lives of everyone involved and the film somehow manages to make it all work just right.
Director Joe Wright has followed up the success he had with Pride and Prejudice and ran with it. There is a moment in which he pulls off one of the most amazing one shots I have ever seen as he follows three soldiers as they walk up the beach and around a merry-go-round. It may sound silly now, but once you see what I am talking about you will see just how good this guy really is.
Kudos must also be tossed out to Dario Marianelli for his fantastic score, which manages to also become a part of the central plotline. It is a musical decision that you may initially believe is just something to be clever, but you soon learn just how much the music moves the story along.
Atonement is a certain Best Picture nominee and Joe Wright may even find an Oscar nomination to go along with his BAFTA win. In a perfect world this film would also be nominated for best adapted screenplay, original score and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Knightley get another nomination, but I would be just as likely to give a nom to Vanessa Redgrave even though her part in the movie is only about five minutes long.
This is a movie that begins with nine letters typed across the screen and ends in one hell of a tragic love story once all is said and done.