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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

‘Atonement’ deserving of Oscar nods

There are certain films that epitomize the meaning of the phrase “Oscar contender.” They’re typically dramas that, on a technical level, are amazing films. The only catch is they aren’t entertaining in the same way comedies or action films can be. They require the viewer to be in a certain mindset and are very engaging, yet also demanding. “Atonement” is such a film. Directed by Joe Wright (“Pride and Prejudice”), “Atonement” is a complex drama that lives up to its Oscar hype but will definitely challenge you.

The movie begins in London, just prior to World War II, at the home of the Tallis family. Young Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) witnesses a series of events between her older sister, Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and the groundskeeper, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), which implies that Turner could be raping her. Misunderstanding what she’s seeing, she goes to the police with accusations that land Turner in jail. A few years later, Turner is told he can leave prison if he joins the army. He enlists, with the hopes of reuniting with Cecilia, with whom he’s madly in love. Meanwhile, a grown-up Briony (Romola Garai) begins to understand the ramifications of her error and tries to contact Cecilia, who has disowned her, in an attempt to atone for her mistakes.

The story is very complex and, to reflect this, Wright has chosen a complicated way of explaining the narrative. The story jumps back and forth in time with memories and dreams. This was a bold move, as he could have easily lost the audience on many occasions. But he makes it work, resulting in a cleverly structured story that never tells you what to think, but is still easy to understand.

Dramas are known for their powerful performances and “Atonement” is no exception. Knightley’s portrayal of Cecilia steals the show. She’s a character you immediately sympathize with. Knightley delivers a performance that illustrates the character’s internal conflict without ever feeling melodramatic. Ronan’s portrayal of a young Briony is also powerful. She’s a na’ve, confused teenager and Ronan plays it perfectly.

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But where “Atonement” stands out is with its cinematography and music. The cinematography often does a far better job than the actors of showing us the character’s emotions. The camera work also does an excellent job of capturing the actors interactions within the gorgeous and expertly constructed sets. Whether it’s the Tallis mansion or bombed French cities, these characters feel like part of the real world, not the center of a fictional one. Still, their emotional struggles are the focus — they never get lost within the crowds. This perfect balance is achieved through some of the most amazing camera work seen in any film from this past year.

The music has just as much of an impact as the cinematography. “Atonement” is a perfect example of how a film’s score should be implemented. It sets up scenes and enhances the atmosphere. Most importantly, it always has a presence without ever being the main focus.

It’s clear why “Atonement” is a big contender at the Oscars. On a technical level, it is an amazing film. And it’s filled with just enough romance and betrayal to seem plausible and not like a big budget soap opera. However, “Atonement” requires the viewer to be in a serious, interested mood to fully appreciate it. If you’re looking for an entertaining popcorn flick, look elsewhere. But if you want a film that will constantly engage you, both through its visuals and compelling narrative, this is your film.

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