MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In 2007, Joe Wright made lightning in a bottle a second time with star Kiera Knightly. This time, instead of casting her in a Jane Austen adaptation, he put her in “Atonement,” the story of forbidden love between a high-society girl in the early 20th century and her childhood friend. Spanning generations, “Atonement” shows what some people will go through for their true love.
WHAT I LIKED
Back when “Atonement” came out, I remember telling people that it’s not a Jane Austen movie, but it might as well be. That’s because it covers much of the same ground, showing young lovers constrained by the politics and expectations of their era. I liked this film far more than “Pride & Prejudice” because things actually happened here. People fell in love. People had sex. People were in real danger. That made it more of a movie to me rather than a weepy costume drama.
Like Joe Wright’s other films, this movie looks great, and it has a very classy feel to it. It is also very well acted with Kiera Knightly and James McAvoy giving fine performances. And let’s not forget the fantastic debut performance of Saoirse Ronan, who was nominated for an Oscar.
But ultimately, this is for the same kind of fan who loved “Pride & Prejudice,” though it does deal with some heavier, darker issues.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Same old, same old when it comes to Jane Austen style films (yes, I know this comes from a book by Ian McEwan, but to me this is futuristic Jane Austen with some sex dropped in). It’s an aching love that takes place over many years. I get that people find this fascinating, but it has always bored me to tears. I like a good action piece, or at least a little more lightheartedness to my love stories.
There were also a few things that didn’t quite sit right with me for this film. First, the entire plot hinges upon a “Three’s Company” style misunderstanding that seemed to stretch really thin. Plus, the misplaced letters in the storyline just didn’t seem believable.
Finally, while I heard many people praise the film for a complex tracking shot in the middle, this level of production value leaped up so much it just seemed out of place for an otherwise subdued film.
The Blu-ray’s special features are imported from the DVD, including Joe Wright’s commentary track, deleted scenes. Two featurettes include “Bringing the Past to Life: The Making of Atonement” and “From Novel to Screen: Adapting a Classic.” There’s also access to Universal’s BD-Live with an active internet connection.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Jane Austen-style fans and Joe Wright film aficionados.