Thursday, July 9, 2009

Day 160: Atonement (2007) - Rank 5/5


Both enthralling and haunting, I feel like going as far to say that this was truly the best film of the year. I don't want to make that judgment right away, for I haven't seen "No Country for Old Men" since opening day, but "Atonement" was simply a perfect film. My favorite film of the five nominated is still "There Will Be Blood" for reasons too numerous to name here, but I will say that Daniel Day-Lewis' Daniel Plainview performance that makes being evil look fun is certainly the main reason. "Michael Clayton," while an excellent thriller, was just that for me. As for "Juno,", I won't start.

"Atonement" beautifully depicts how everything is life is so very fragile. Be it lives or relationships, they can be dashed in an instant. Such a moment occurs as a result of misinterpretation of events by a young Briony. She catches only mere glimpses of the relationship between her sister Cecilia (Keira Knightly) and the estate gardener Robbie (James McAvoy). Despite being a youth that is highly doted by Cecilia's family, he's quickly thrown to the wolves when a visiting family member is raped and Briony testifies to Robbie's licentiousness (a misconception she receives by walking in on her sister and Robbie's interludes at inappropriate times). It wouldn't take Briony long to realize the error of her ways and she then spends her life endeavoring to find reconciliation for a wrong that cannot be corrected, leading up to the film's staggering finale.

Even more staggering that the finale is a single shot within the film. Set at Dunkick amidst World War II (the romance of Cecilia and Robbie continuing during the throes of battle when he joins the army after prison), director Joe Wright follows Robbie's troubled walk along the beach in a tracking shot that lasts five minutes on an astonishing set. As he progresses, he becomes more and more disillusioned by the sights surrounding him - horses are being executed as troops play on the beach or in the surf, soldiers lay out tanning next to those injured and bleeding, another group, led by a commanding officer, sing as a feris wheel burns in the background. I've never seen the madness and confusion of war summed up so brilliantly in a solitary shot. Wright accomplished in five minutes what it took Francis Ford Coppola almost four hours to do in "Apocalypse Now"...and it never looked so eerily beautiful. Between stellar performances and the year's best score, you'd have to look hard to find any true flaws to the film.

Watch the Trailer

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