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Movie Review: Atonement

A movie that I’d describe as a true flight of fancy, flown to near-perfection.

It’s a seemingly slow-paced film, yet manages to surprise with almost every scene. The plot is rather basic – a young English girl wrongly accuses a man who loves her older sister of a crime he did not commit, changing their lives forever. The simplicity of the story only serves to accentuate the brilliant artistry of the film. The parts of the story that are actually told are unconventional not just in content and character but also in chronology, which kept me guessing, interested and imagining throughout – a rare treat in these days where movies are made for an audience to sit back and be invaded by a deluge of hyper-emotional scenes, special effects and assorted wizardry.

One of the highlights is the depiction of old England – an England that in my head was first created through the words of P. G. Wodehouse. The movie isn’t a comedy by any stretch but it recreates in its opening half my perfect idea of a mansion in the English countryside during a hot summer (dare I say Blandings Castle?), right down to the “Blue Room” reserved for special guests. In the second half, it is World War II that is in the foreground, and that’s very well done too. Perhaps deserving of even more creative credit, given the hundreds of war movies that exist.

The photography – or cinematography, as I should probably call it – throughout the movie is nothing short of stunning. I’m willing to bet that there were some avid photographers involved in its creation. The collection of landscapes, silhouettes, background contrasts, framed lighting, close-ups – I could go on – seldom fail to delight. I could forget all about the plot and the acting and enjoy the film just for the scenery.

Rarely do I walk out of a movie theater feeling so fresh. But thats twice in two months that a film has done that for me. The other one was the Darjeeling Limited, something I wanted to write about as well. Another time, perhaps.