Sunday, January 27, 2008
The View from the Tank: Atonement (2007)
I can't believe I liked this movie. Unlike There Will Be Blood, I went into Atonement with the lowest possible expectations. I hadn't read the book, but from the previews and ads, I was expecting some yawner Masterpiece Theater bore, with lots of huge lawns, tons of neatly trimmed shrubbery, some polite but sexually charged talk over afternoon tea, etc. And there was some of that stuff, but the movie moved along at a nice clip, the acting was excellent, yes, even what's her name (though I could have done with a little less pouting), and I actually felt something like emotion at the end of the movie. (James McAvoy, who was quite good in The Last King of Scotland, is excellent here.) Some things were a little heavy handed -- the music, for one, was a bit intrusive at points -- but overall this was excellently done. The long shots of the British troops on the beach in France were particularly amazing and terrifying. The ending was maybe slightly gimmicky, but overall I thought it was quite effective.
There's an interesting mirror theme running throughout the movie, with the characters watching themselves, looking at themselves throughout the film, with the film (or story) itself ultimately being the mirror in which the author looks at herself, but I'm too tired to try to tease this out right now.
I realized that I had liked the movie despite myself as we left the theater; I felt a bit disoriented, my mind still in the movie. It stayed with me for the next day or so. None of the other movies I have seen over the last year made any real impact on me; they were all enjoyable, entertaining, nice to look at, etc., but none of them affected me. I was truly surprised that this was the movie that did.