A: When a 13-year-old girl accuses her sister’s lover of raping another woman, she ruins all three of their lives.
Q: Who’s in the movie?
A: James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai,Vanessa Redgrave, Brenda Blythen, Juno Temple
Q: Is this movie worth the price of admission?
A: Proceed with Caution. The premise sounds better than what they actually did with it. The passion between the two lovers as they uncover their secret desire for each other is scintillating. The moment when the 13-year-old girl knowingly lies about the supposed crime adds to that a thrilling dilemma. And then the movie takes a sharp left turn and becomes a story about two lovers separated by World War II. This turn is completely unnecessary considering they’ve already been separated by this giant lie, and the movie would have been much stronger if they had stayed focused on the simple, yet high stakes elements that had been so smartly set up in the first act. I haven’t read the novel by Ian McEwan, which this is based on, and perhaps it worked well on the page, but on film it feels out of the blue and causes the story to wander at this point. This boring and meandering part of the movie does not make the good parts any less good, but it dramatically brings the movie down as a whole. After an amazing set up, the direction it goes in is a disappointment.
Q: Will this movie make me laugh?
Q: Will this movie make me cry?
A: No, but it makes the actors in it cry a lot.
Q: Will this movie be up for any awards?
A: Joe Wright, the director, was nominated for a Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film festival. He didn’t win.
Q: How is the Acting?
A: James McAvoy is one of those actors who has the ability to be really sexy on screen, even though he’s not particularly great looking. That tends to be a dead giveaway for good acting. I think he knows it though, because lately he seems to be picking his roles based on how hot the girl he gets to kiss will be. He’s gone from Kerry Washington in The Last King of Scotland, to Anne Hathaway in Becoming Jane, to Keira Knightley in this, and rumor has it, his next screen-kiss is scheduled to be with Angelina Jolie… I guess after that he can retire.
Q: How is the Directing?
A: I found it self-indulgent. During the meandering war part of the film, there is a five minute long steady-cam shot which goes in and out of crowds of soldiers waiting around on the beach to be taken home. Some are wounded, some are crazy, some are singing! The shot follows extras, shows scenery, and amounts to nothing. It advanced the story in no way whatsoever, and gave me time to think about how proud the director must have been about his work on that shot. The whole thing should have been cut.
Q: How is the story/script?
A: The novel by Ian McEwan was clearly written from the point of view of the 13-year-old girl, Briony. The movie script starts out from her point of view as well, but after the lie is told, it switches to the point of view of Robbie, the victim of the lie. And guess what? It’s suddenly 4 years later, and he is a soldier at war. When the movie changes points of view is the moment when it goes downhill. I assume the screenwriter had to tell the war part out of loyalty to the book, but if he had maintained Briony’s point of view, it might have better defined the story’s objective, stayed on the theme of “atonement,” and forced the writer to shorten that (weakest) section of the movie by a lot. Eventually, the story does go back to being about the guilt the little girl (who is now grown) feels for having lied. But in the end, what she finally does to atone for her mistake is a disappointment.
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