Hit Me With Your Best Shot!: “Atonement”

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One day I’ll be able to revisit Joe Wright’s Atonement without losing composure, but not today.

Atonement remains an emotional powerhouse almost a decade after release, its perspective on regret and absolution undiminished by how quickly it has been forgotten. The film was swiftly (and unfairly) categorized on release as standard costume drama despite its hefty dramatic intent and bold construction. It’s a masterful piece of storytelling, with Wright showing his surest directorial hand and most effective risk-taking skills in his career.

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2007 was a banner year for cinematography. Atonement skyrocketed director of photography Seamus McGarvey’s profile and landed him his first of two current Oscar nominations. His lensing is so vivid and informative that he could be a slam dunk win in any other year (though he’d be my 2007 winner), but he was among intense competition, including a double dip from Roger Deakins – all losing to the sinister stasis of Robert Elswit’s work on There Will Be Blood.

But McGarvey’s framing and movement aches and yourns beyond the depths of his formidable competition. It’s a complete visual feast, so this time I’m including many of its immaculate visuals before getting to that powerful Best Shot…

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