Atonement: A Review

February 27, 2008

By Rob O’Connor

 

Atonement is the jewel in the crown of one of the greatest years for film in recent history.  It just won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Drama), and rightfully so. In terms of acting, writing and cinematography, it is flawless. And I say without a hint of hyperbole that it is the best movie made in the past three years.

 

Atonement is the story of a young girl named Bryony, who alters the futures of her older sister, played by Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean), and her lover, played by James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland), when she accuses him of raping her cousin. The first half of the story is told by juxtaposing her perspective during the fateful evening with that of her older sister. The two points of view are masterly interwoven in a manner that almost begs to be compared to Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Rashomon. The story then takes the main characters through World War II as star-crossed lovers, Knightly and McAvoy attempt to make a future together despite their sordid past, and Bryony attempts to atone for her sins.

 

When watching Atonement, one of the first things that leaps out at you is how beautifully it is shot. Director Joe Wright painstakingly composed and choreographed each shot, and it comes through on the screen. One scene, in particular, on the beach as the British army is waiting to be evacuated from France, is the kind of scene that film school wet dreams are made of. Wright’s style, which seems inspired by, and almost rivals that of Ang Lee or Terrence Malick, is quite deliberate, and each shot seems almost like a portrait in its painstaking composition.

 

Knightly seems to be maturing as an actress, and puts in a great performance. However, the one who steals most of the scenes is McAvoy, who has finally been given a vessel in which to prove that he is possibly the most talented newcomer in Hollywood.

 

From start to finish, Atonement is near perfect at every turn. It should be on the short list for the Oscar for Best Motion Picture, and after nabbing the top honor at the Golden Globe, it is the heavy favorite to win.

 

Grade: A

Andy Hostetter
Entertainment Editor


 
Several films throughout cinema history have caused boycotts. Due to Hollywood’s ever growing desire to push the limits of what is acceptable, we find ourselves caught between a film’s necessity to show (what some may call) vulgar material and a film’s desire to be vulgar for the sake of being vulgar. The Sundance Film Festival screened a film this week entitled “Hounddog.” It stars 12 year-old film star Dakota Fanning. Controversy has clouded this film for its rape scene featuring the minor, Fanning.  Religious activists have begun to protest saying this scene is an actual case of child abuse. The film’s director Deborah Kampmeir, however, says the scene is essential and touches upon an issue that is silenced by our society. So now the film poses multiple moral questions. Is this going too far or are people making too much of this? Is this an issue that needs to be more widely discussed in our society? Is it fair to have an actual “girl” act out this scene?It is true that Fanning appears to be a very mature 12-year-old who has handled her career with maturity. She plays roles that few children her age could handle, and she has already turned herself into a leading “lady.”

But does a person at the age of 12 truly know exactly they are doing? So many times we hear of actors and actresses feeling regret for performing sexual scenes on the big screen. These actors and actresses generally do these scenes at the beginning of their careers, and generally they are over the age of 18. Will Fanning regret doing this scene when she hits adulthood?

Another question is raised: What type of person is going to see this film? In honesty, this is a film that will not be released to all theatres. It is an indie film that is attempting to send a message rather than earn big box office bucks. “Chester the Molester,” will probably not be seeing this film. However, it is guaranteed to meet some pervert’s sick fantasy, and that alone should acquire enough incentive to shelf its release.

However, what about Kampmeir’s argument about the film’s educational value to our society? Is it educational? According to Kampmeir this is a topic that isn’t covered by our national media. For her, it is the type of thing that mainstream media has pushed under the rug. Kampmeir is wrong. This is the type of topic that we hear a lot about. Sexual assault, domestic abuse, etc. are all types of cases that people like to complain are never covered. In reality, these issues are covered,and Kampmeir is trying to use this scene only to garner creative and bold praise. 

Will this film educate anyone? Probably not, its main goal is to get attention and possibly win some awards. It certainly isn’t the worst thing that will be released this year, and it might not even raise an eyebrow for some people. Keep in mind this: now you are aware that this film (Hounddog) has this graphic scene. If this sounds like the sort of thing that offends you, don’t see the film. Go and see Fanning in “Charlotte’s Web” instead.

These questions have no clear-cut answers, and maybe there is no right or wrong answer. These questions only add fuel to the media fire, and they add free advertising to the low budget film. At least Kampmeir knew how to play the controversy card.  

Robert L Francis Jr
Staff Writer

2-12-07
DW1001 IUSB
   The film Flock of Dodos: the Evolution- Intelligent Design Circus is made by filmmaker and former Evolutionary Ecologist Dr. Randy Olson. Was presented by the Anthropology Club, the Anthropology  Department, the IUSB Sociology and the American Democracy Project. The 84 minute long film was a part of the Celebration of Darwin’s birthday. The film will be shown again on Friday February 16th.
    In the film he tries to make sense of the issue by returning to Kansas.
    The Movie is definitely not unbiased, it comes down squarely on the side of the Evolutionists but it does try to be kind and respectful to those who believe in Intelligent Design.
    The movie starts off showing those in favor of intelligent Design, which a Federal Judge recently labeled ” Breathtaking Inanity” as having the problem. In particular one John Calvert, the lawyer who operates the Intelligent Design Network who insists on the existence of documentation but he cannot find this documentation in his own books on his own bookshelf. He insists that DNA is designed but when Olsen asks for proof he replies, “because it looks designed.”
   The Intelligent Design people then show unworked ground and then point to Mount Rushmore and say that is evidence of Intelligent Design.
    The scientists in favor of evolution show frustration at the people who dismiss the evidence supporting evolution saying, ” Intelligent Design is Mendacity- Evolution is fact.”
      Dr. Steve Case of Kansas then disparages the Intelligent Design claim that ” God is in the gaps” as destructive saying ” The more you learn the smaller God gets.” By the end of the film the scientists have resorted to name-calling and are shown to be overbearing, regarding with disdain as ignorant simpletons any who do not agree with them.
     One scientist, Givnish, seems very upset, shaken even when he learns that Federal Grants may not be awarded if an evolutionist uses the word evolution in his work.
    To learn more and form your own opinion check out these sites;
    http://www.flockofdodos.com/main.htm 
   http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/   
   http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2101

Steve Lotter
Staff Writer

 Martin Scorsese is back with a vengeance. In his latest crime caper, The Departed, Scorsese returns to his winning ways that brought us classics such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas.

 From frame one to the end, The Departed is like a thrilling roller coaster ride of emotions, never letting us go and making us happy that we waited in line. Jack Nicholson plays the hardened Irish mob boss looking to infiltrate the Boston police department with one of his own; a young gun played with ferocity by Matt Damon. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Boston police department is looking to do the same with the Nicholson’s group but with a young cop who has family ties to the Irish mob played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

 The three leads are all strong, with an especially gripping performance from DiCaprio as Billy Costigan. He is in the most overwhelming position throughout the film, having to pretend he is a killer when he’s not and most importantly, having to act opposite the always stellar Jack Nicholson.

 Nicholson is evil, even devilish. His every move, word, facial expression is wondrously crafted with fire and intensity. Nicholson may be pushing seventy, but he is still a force to be reckoned with in the film industry and gives his young counterparts a run for their money. His presence in the film is two-fold. He can be your best friend or your worst enemy, yet you’re never able to predict his next move.

 Much of the film feels like the ultimate chess match between two equal opponents. Brilliant casting choices with Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Mark Wahlberg, fill out the rest of the cast as cops. It has been some time since I have seen a movie that has kept me guessing all the way until the end. The Departed makes the audience feel smart and in the know for most of the film, but is not too shy to smack them across the face with a thrilling surprise just when you least expect it.

 The film feels shorter than its 152 running time would have you believe. I never stopped to look down at my watch, which seems to be asking a lot from a film these days. Direction wise, Scorsese has never been sharper and his editing has never been crisper. The film is based on the Hong Kong blockbuster Infernal Affairs, released in 2002 and borrows from many of the elements that made the film such a success in its native country. 

The Departed is currently playing at both Showplace 16 and Movies 14. It is rated R for bloody violence, dirty sex, and bad words.

Brick of Gold

September 27, 2006

brickcover.jpgVal Schweisberger
Staff Writer

Rarely does a film come along that truly captures the essence of a drug ring. That’s only part of what makes Brick, written and directed by Rian Johnson, such a masterpiece. The film is set in a high school, so it brings a fresh element to a story typically associated with mobsters and other such unsavory characters.

Brick follows high school student Brendan Frye (masterfully played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt of Third Rock from the Sun fame) as he investigates the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend Emily. Fearless and intuitive, “street smart” doesn’t even begin to describe Brendan’s brilliance. As he unravels the mystery, Brendan becomes involved with a dangerous drug ring that eventually threatens to bring him down. Fresh and unpredictable, Brick takes the average detective story to an entirely new level.

Quick, succinct dialogue and streetwise writing serve to propel the already lightning-fast story, and it truly keeps viewers on their toes. Just as the audience begins to unravel the story, they are introduced to new and complex characters that seemingly all have motives. Take into consideration the relentless pace and endless narcotic jargon, and the audience doesn’t have a chance at figuring this one out.

Flawless performances, original style, and brilliant directing render Brick, rated “R” for violence and drug content, one of the best films of the year. Now available on DVD, Brick will surely keep you guessing in breathless suspense until the very end.