Atonement

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Mar 292008
 

Atonement, Click to view the trailerIn 1935, 13-year-old fledgling writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and her family live a life of wealth and privilege in their enormous mansion. On the warmest day of the year, the country estate takes on an unsettling hothouse atmosphere, stoking Briony’s vivid imagination. Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), the educated son of the family’s housekeeper, carries a torch for Briony’s headstrong older sister Cecilia (Kiera Knightley). Cecilia, he hopes, has comparable feelings; all it will take is one spark for this relationship to combust. When it does, Briony – who has a crush on Robbie – is compelled to interfere, going so far as accusing Robbie of a crime he did not commit. Cecilia and Robbie declare their love for each other, but he is arrested – and with Briony bearing false witness, the course of three lives is changed forever. Briony continues to seek forgiveness for her childhood misdeed. Through a terrible and courageous act of imagination, she finds the path to her uncertain atonement, and to an understanding of the power of enduring love.

Genres: Drama, Romance, Adaptation and War

Running Time: 2 hrs. 2 min.

MPAA Rating: R for disturbing war images, language and some sexuality.

Starring: James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan, Brenda Blethyn, Vanessa Redgrave

Directed by: Joe Wright

Atonement starts promisingly, dramatically, and with some humor, as the imagination and moral immaturity of young Briony Tallis lead at first to some standard British drawing room drama, and then to the brink of tragedy. Some very fine acting, cinematography, and great scenery help get us involved.

Then the movie abruptly shifts locations, actors, and pace. Although the plot switches to the historically dramatic circumstances of the second world war, our characters now seem only to be marking time.

And then, near the end of the movie, we are subjected to a writerly device, which forces us to re-evaluate the second half of the movie. There’s a great tradition of these tricks in film and we react differently to each one, but at the end of Atonement, when the device was played, my reaction was simply disappointment, and simply confirmed my decreased engagement in the second half of the movie. Whatever was the intended impact, the drama had long before seeped away.

It’s worth seeing for the acting, cinematography, and that dramatic first hour.

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The Last King of Scotland

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Apr 222007
 

The Last Kind of ScotlandBased on the events of the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s regime as seen by his personal physician during the 1970s

Directed by
Kevin Macdonald

Genres
Drama, History, Thriller

Cast
Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, Simon McBurney, David Oyelowo, Abby Mukiibi Nkaaga, Adam Kotz, Barbara Rafferty, David Ashton, Giles Foden, Andy Williams, Martina Amati, Peter Salmon, Michael Wawuyo

Much of what you will see is true, and did occur in Uganda’s history. Amin’s doctor, played by James Macavoy, is the main fiction in the movie, but one would think they are watching a historical event. Macavoy’s character is so real. The doctor grows from a free thinking, adventure loving, womanizer, to a scared, concerned, and enlightened person. The viewer watches through Macavoys eyes as he witnesses the horrors of Amin’s (Forest Whitaker’s) presidency and regime.
How can an actor terrify you without saying a word, without even hardly moving his face or body? I’m not sure how he does it, but Mr. Whitaker does it over and over again in this movie. And then he turns around the next minute and becomes giant hug-able teddy bear superhero.

This movie will scare the viewer because of its realism, and how it builds up to a tension that is hard to endure. The visuals are not for the squeamish. Go ahead and hide your eyes during the “tough” scenes. It is still worth seeing this movie for the fast paced story, realistic drama, fascinating tale, and for the unbelievable acting. By the end of the movie the audience is exhausted, but satisfied that they saw a worthy flick.

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