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Best Picture Breakdown: Atonement

From now until the 2008 Oscars air on Sunday night, I'll be breaking down the five contenders for Best Picture, giving you the scoop on why each film could win and why it might not stand a chance. So far, I've taken a look at There Will Be Blood and Michael Clayton. Today's Best Picture nominee is Atonement.

Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright works his magic with another desperately romantic drama, this one taking place in England before and during WWII. At the age of 13, imaginative aspiring writer Briony misconstrues a situation she witnesses and brings grave charges against her sister Cecilia's (Keira Knightley) lover, Robbie (James McAvoy). The terrible repercussions of this false accusation haunt Briony for the rest of her life, causing her to seek redemption for her mistake through her writing.

To see what I think about this Best Picture nominee's chances,


Why It Might Win

  • Along with No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, Atonement has been a darling of the critics' circles thus far. Most importantly, BAFTA soundly rewarded the film and it won the Golden Globe for Best Picture — Drama.
  • The film is an all-around success. It's equally impressive on all counts: acting, art direction, costumes, not to mention — most notably, in my opinion — the magnificent score by Dario Marianelli. At the base of it all is Ian McEwan's novel, concisely adapted for screen by Christopher Hampton. Atonement is satisfying to watch because it gets high marks in all regards.
  • At the most basic level, the story in Atonement is greatly appealing. It's just a good old-fashioned love story, full of war and romance, intrigue and betrayal. All the visual and musical trappings aside, it's an easy tale for people to fall in love with.

Why it Might Not Win

  • As far as American audiences and critics go, Atonement may be trumped by, well, American stories. The meaty, masculine, violent story told in No Country or the cautionary tale of greed woven by There Will Be Blood may prove more palatable to the Academy.
  • Along similar lines, Atonement has already been honored many times, specifically with the BAFTA for Best Film. It's hard to say whether the Academy will want to reward the movie on top of that.

Photo courtesy of Focus Features

ASpoonfulofSugar ASpoonfulofSugar 9 years
Oh, and yeah, I hope this wins Best Picture!
ASpoonfulofSugar ASpoonfulofSugar 9 years
Sorry Buzz, I completely disagree with "It's just a good old-fashioned love story, full of war and romance, intrigue and betrayal. All the visual and musical trappings aside, it's an easy tale for people to fall in love with." This is NOT a tale for people to fall in love with. It is heartwrenchingly tragic from the very beginning--full of mistakes, confusion, assault, blame, regret, anger. I didn't see this as a love story AT ALL, but a complete tragedy. No, it doesn't remind me of Titanic or American Beauty, but it is definitely on the same track of best pictures like The English Patient. A war-torn world full of death, blood, fear--and lovers that are doomed before they even know they are in love. A child whose whole life is centered on the choices she made at 13, and a life of regret with no chance for forgiveness or making things right. None of these character have happiness. That is forever lost the night of the incident with Lola. From then on, they have just a glimmer of hope for a future that never came to be. Joe Wright's films are stunning. Absolutely stunning. One of my favorite book series is in the talks to be made into a movie, and I desperately hope he is brought in to direct.
oohsexypenguin oohsexypenguin 9 years
I loved this movie. But what can I say, I'm a sucker for tragic romances. The direction was beautiful, and the score was amazing (I loved the sound of the typewriter throughout, I thought that was a brilliant touch). And I thought Saoirse Ronan's performance as Briony made the film that much better. She's fantastic.
kwikwit kwikwit 9 years
The book was better - but it was still a great movie. Joe Wright's best movie still remains "Pride and Prejudice".
moviefan1 moviefan1 9 years
Please, don't put Keira Knightly in any love stories drama just becuase she has a pretty face. She's terrible in Pride and Prejudice and she is terrible in Atonement. I love her in Pirates of Caribbean, but please don't try drama.
gigill gigill 9 years
I thought this movie was pretty good, but it's not an Oscar classic like some of the other big winners e.g. Titanic, American Beauty etc.
briggs313 briggs313 9 years
I love love loved this movie. EVerything about it was great, so tragically romantic, beautifully directed, great costumes (clearly i love the green dress) and wonderful acting. I agree with Buzz, the love story was really felt and yet the characters hardly had any interaction. I hope this wins tons but i'm torn bc i did love all of the other movies nominated!
yiddidea yiddidea 9 years
I thought this film was brilliant. I definitely saw chemistry between the 2 leads and the lack of interaction between them before everything goes awry simply put a huge exlamation point on why the story is so tragic. I couldn't agree with Buzz more about the score. If this film does not walk away with that award I will be floored!
Adrianne Adrianne 9 years
I'm SO excited that this movie is FINALLY going to show this weekend in my hometown! I'm going to watch it on Saturday! :D
x_juicyfruit x_juicyfruit 9 years
I still have yet to see this movie. Overall, I've heard great things about it.
hotstuff hotstuff 9 years
I really think this was one of the most overrated films this year! I didn't feel the chemistry between the characters. You were then supposed to believe they were SO in love. It was purposely confusing the way they went back and forth with the story. And the "twist" was corny. I give it a meh.
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