By my loose, nobody-knows-anything estimation, Atonement is your likely Best Picture winner at the next Academy Awards, alongside nominees American Gangster, The Kite Runner, No Country for Old Men, and There Will Be Blood. But would I pay to see it? Fortunately, I didn't have to, as I caught a screening Thursday evening.
Good thing, because I feel like a paid ticket is somehow supporting Keira Knightley to keep her scary, alien-like frame. Look at her shoulders in this picture! They are pointy, not willowy. (Memo to the studios: drop the Kool-Aid already, and quit convincing us that this is how women are supposed to look. Hetero men aren't stupid -- well, no, we are -- but we're pretty sure that our gaze was not intended for human hangers wearing stylish clothes.)
So, the movie: it has the makings of a major award winner -- meaty title, themes of war and romance, long passage of time -- but I felt a little cold by all of it. For whatever reason, it plays around with its timeline; usually, I feel a movie is better told simply and linearly, but in this case, the skipping around kept me interested.
For a few fleeting moments, leads Knightley and James McAvoy have a lively chemistry, and might have made more of it in a less heavy-handed movie. The direction, sticking to this overall solemn tone, comes across as appropriately theatrical. Watching the film with a mind toward awards, you see all bases properly covered: music, costumes, makeup, cinematography, etc. I was especially fond of the use of a typewriter (the film's symbolic weapon) as a percussive instrument.
Haven't read the book, but I want to believe that there was more reason to care about what happened. What we're given instead is -- my apologies, Keira -- a very barebones approach.