Atonement (2007)

(In theaters, January 2008) How fitting that a film about life-long guilt should seem to last forever. If you thought The English Patient wasn’t long enough, then Atonement is the movie for you: stiff-lipped English romantic drama against a WW2 backdrop, with self-important cinematography and lengthy meaningful pauses. It certainly aims for a particularly forgiving segment of the public, and it’s no accident if I was the youngest member of the audience at the screening I attended. The opening manages to be both enigmatic and dull, with enough time-shifting to make anyone wonder if the reels have been wrongly put together. Then it’s off to war, and the single best reason to see the film: a lengthy shot flying around three characters as they make their way on and off a beach where English troops are waiting to be evacuated. It’s a show-off piece –just like most of what’s distinctive about the film, up to and including the ending which slaps the viewer on the face and tells them they shouldn’t have bothered. This is pure Oscar-bait, and it exemplifies the type of excruciating cinema that audiences have to inflict upon themselves if they want to stay current during the Awards season.

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