From Atonement to Yuma

Atonement

Caught a couple of extremely good movies this weekend; last night Mel and I went to see Atonement, adapted from Ian McEwan’s ‘unfilmable’ novel, which means it arrives with the burden of being an adaptation of a highly respected work of literature. It lived up to the challenge exceedingly well, deftly moving from different character’s perspectives and times, from the heavy stillness of a warm, summer day in the country to the chaos of the Dunkirk evacuation, yet rarely confusing the audience despite the multi-perspective, non-linear narrative. The use of colour, perspective, music and sound is fascinating right from the start, from the staccato of a typewriters leading into the rhythm of the music to the sound of a bee trapped by a window leading out to a scene which is seen from several viewpoints around a fountain (water motifs repeat throughout). Intriguing story, very good performances (especially Keira Knightly and James McAvoy, Kiera looking at home in those 40s fashions) and a beautifully crafted film which has obviously had a lot of attention and love paid on it.

Also caught a film I have been waiting for, 3:10 to Yuma (a remake of a movie from the Western’s heyday in the 50s) with Christian Bale, Russell Crowe and Peter Fonda. I have to confess that like many wee boys who grew up to be big kids I still have a soft spot for a good Western; it’s a once all dominating genre which has faded away into the sunset like many of its stars did at the climax of their movies years ago. In the last couple of decades there haven’t been many, although we have had a handful from the highly enjoyable like Tombstone (silly but great, especially Kilmer’s Doc Holliday) to the superb like Unforgiven (a brilliant distillation of years of Western films into a dark, brooding masterpiece) and the quirky, odd gems like Dead Man and The Proposition.

Now we have 3:10 to Yuma, with a Jesse James Western starring Brad Pitt on the way in a few months too. I may have to dust off my cowboy boots. The movie itself doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel – the Civil War former soldier turned farmer trying to struggle to provide for his family, the corrupt local landowner, the outlaw gang, the contrast between honesty and crime and how they Won the West, all well worn grooves in the genre and Crowe’s violent nutter who may – or may not – have a latent streak of decency and Bale playing a troubled hero aren’t new either. But damn, it is a good Western. Oh, and it had Alan Tudyk from Joss Whedon’s brilliant Firefly/Serenity in it too, never a bad thing.