Us review

Director: Jordan Peele

Writer: Jordan Peele

Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker

Release date: March 22, 2019

us-movie-poster-2019-lupita-nyongo-1157198

Well that was something.

Us is the second film from director Jordan Peele. The premise is a family of four goes on vacation, only to have their home invaded by a family of doppelgangers. There is a lot more to it than that, but Us is a film that is best viewed with as little information as possible going in. The description of the premise hides so much of what actually happens in the film, and that Us is easily one of the most creative, disturbing and memorable horror films in recent years. I should fully disclose that I have not seen all of Get Out, so I can only compare the two so much.

Us is a film with a lot of layers, symbolism, and subtext underneath its surface details. Looking back on the film, it becomes more apparent on what was foreshadowed and how carefully constructed everything was to make every plot point and twist work in the long run. It’s a film that I will probably watch sometime again in the future, just so that I can see what details I missed on the first watch. It’s a film with things to say about society, much like Get Out did. Us handles the issue of class oppression, using the doppelgangers who live underground as metaphors for the lower classes who live deprived of things those above them have, and the doppelgangers eventually rise above to take what they want.

The cast members give outstanding performances, having to play two roles at once. Lupita Nyong’o plays the role of protective and frightened mother, as well as murderous and envious psycho. Despite both characters usually being on screen at the same time, Nyong’o disappears into both, with tense and memorable interactions. The only performance I found to be a weak link was Winston Duke’s. He does a great job as the goofy dad, but the character himself could be somewhat annoying. The kids all do a good job as well.

Us’s tone is mixture of comedy and serious horror. It does a stupendous job of balancing both, though not completely as seen with Winston Duke’s character. When it’s not scaring you, it’s throwing in a moment of comedic relief to keep the audience from choking on its own terror. It’s both genuinely scary and funny. Sometimes the fact it’s funny makes the scares even worse.

For scares, Us eschews jump scares and clichés in favor of creativity and atmosphere. Nyong’o’s doppelganger character is extremely creepy, but has a tragic backstory that makes it easy to see why she’s doing what she’s doing. That makes her actions even more scary. Much of the horror in Us comes from its uncomfortable atmosphere, aided by a very effective score.

While it can sometimes be too on the nose, Us is a remarkable horror film with brains. Every element works to form one of the most original movies of the year. Definitely worth a watch.

Score: 9/10

Advertisements

Watchmen review

Writer: Alan Moore

Artist: Dave Gibbons

Colorist: John Higgins

Issues: 12

Run: September 1986- October 1987

watchmen-cover

Watchmen: The comic book to end comic books. A work that transcends boundaries in both genre and medium. A masterpiece that will likely never be surpassed.

What more can be said about Watchmen that hasn’t already been said? It’s a deconstruction and examination of superheroes. It shows what would happen if they existed in a world as complex and flawed as ours, and shows how they would change the political and cultural landscape of the world.

Watchmen starts off as a seemingly simple murder mystery. An ex-vigilante known as The Comedian was murdered, tossed out of his apartment to pavement. One of the last heroes still working, Rorschach, takes it upon himself to investigate. The plot also has other heroes, either retired or in government employ such as: Dr Manhattan, Silk Spectre, Nite Owl, and Ozymandias. As the plot unfolds, it appears that heroes are being targeted, possibly for revenge. The plot then unfolds even further to reveal that the stakes and ramifications are far greater, and morally murkier, than the characters could have possibly forseen.

There is no one reason why Watchmen is considered the greatest comic book of all time. Yet, so many seem to think there is. The worst reason that pops up is that it’s “dark”, thus making it mature. It’s true that Watchmen is a dark comic, and it is mature, but it is not mature because it’s dark. It is mature because its plot is complex yet comprehensible, the characters are layered and compelling, and it handles its heavy political and moral messages with nuance and understanding. Another important thing to note is that it is not a work that drowns in cynicism. In fact, there are multiple hints that lean towards the interpretation that the comic is rather idealistic, just not overwhelmingly so.

The plot balances a fine line between simple and complex. As long as you’re paying attention, it’s easy to follow. It starts small, but slowly grows bigger and bigger. It’s a well written murder mystery that is also a conspiracy thriller, set against the backdrop of an America that won the Vietnam War, elected Richard Nixon to four terms, and is teetering on the brink of nuclear war with Soviet Russia. It slowly lays threads that seem to be unconnected at first, but by the end, were clearly always connected. Every seemingly irrelevant detail fulfills its task, and you are left shaken and unnerved by how so many answers were staring at you in the face the whole time. I first read Watchmen while I was in high school, and this was my first re-reading of it. A second reading makes a person truly appreciate how meticulous its plotting is.

It’s an exciting but slow burning plot that is driven by some of the most amazing characters in comic book history. There is no one in Watchmen who can be described as “heroic”. In fact, most of them are barely even likable. However, they are all interesting. The closest the book has to a protagonist, Rorschach, is one of the most compelling characters in fiction. He’s a mentally unbalanced, ultra right wing, bigoted, borderline sociopath who is also one of the only people in the plot who genuinely wishes to do the right thing. The victim, The Comedian, aka Edward Blake, was even worse. He was a glorified war criminal and attempted rapist who did dirty work for the United States government after masked vigilantism became outlawed. Almost no one is sad to see him dead. Yet we learn at varying points that even he was not without a conscience. We see how having godlike powers would end up alienating a man from the rest of humanity in the character arc of Dr. Manhattan, the only character in the comic with super powers. Nite Owl is well intentioned, but neurotic and impotent. Silk Spectre never even wanted to really be a crime fighter, having been pressured into it by her mother, who fought under the name Silk Spectre herself.

The characters of Watchmen, are all in some form or another to varying degrees, broken. They are neurotic, selfish, and pathetic figures with weird sexual hangups. Alan Moore does not present his characters in a flattering light, but he does not demonize them either. They are human beings just living their lives the best they know how to. As stated earlier, much has been made about Watchmen being a dark and adult work, but without understanding what those words mean. It paints the comic as telling this nihilistic, hopeless story about how heroes and people suck. This is wrong. Close examination of not just Watchmen’s main characters, but its side characters and subtext, show a story that says that even in the worst of world, good can be found. We see people who argue and bicker with each other over petty, meaningless things. We then see them help each other, or even complete strangers when the chips fall. Rorshach at one point states “As long as there is life, there is hope.” Dr. Manhattan, the superman detached from the rest of humanity, has one of the most moving speeches about life’s value I’ve ever read at the end of the ninth issue. Depending on one’s moral viewpoint, the comic’s ending could be seen as a happy one; and how exactly the comic ends is extremely ambiguous. It’s a work that is left open to interpretation on all levels. One person’s hero may be another’s ultimate villain.

Watchmen has been declared “unadaptable”, like Lord of the Rings was. Now this has been arguably been debunked, considering that it was adapted into a film by director Zack Snyder in 2009. But I can see why people think this. Watchmen tells its story in a way only the medium of comics can. It uses a nine panel grid to carefully control the pacing of the story, reserving huge splash panels for dramatic moments. Dialogue bubbles reflect the development and personality of characters. Moore and Gibbons crafted a story that could only have been told as well as it did as a comic.

Dave Gibbons’ art plays a big role in the book’s method of storytelling. Besides being beautiful, Gibbons stuffs small details into every panel that encourages another read. Small clues and foreshadowing to future plot developments can be found if you look closely enough. It’s stylized in a harkening back to the Silver Age, in character design and aesthetics. This makes the heavy subject matter and moments of violence stand out more. Speaking of violence, Watchmen handles violence in a calculated manner, like everything else in the book. The violence is never gratuitous, and rarely becomes extreme.

Watchmen is a masterpiece. It’s the pinnacle of comic books. Every element works together to create an incomparable reading experience. Anyone, whether they are a fan of comics or not can enjoy it, and it can make those who are not fans into fans. People within the industry and out of it have been trying to recapture the magic of it ever since its inception. DC has even seen fit to integrate the characters into its larger universe, which has finally begun with their big event/sequel Doomsday Clock, written by Geoff Johns with art by Gary Frank. Watchmen doesn’t need a sequel or supplementary material, or be part of the wider universe of DC. It would cheapen everything about it. Even if Doomsday Clock does stick the landing, it will forever be in the shadow of the work that preceded it.

Score: 10/10

Initial thoughts: Us

It gives you a lot to chew on. I am going to be thinking about this one for a long time. It’s well directed, acted, and is very creative and ambitious. Jordan Peele has definitely made something special here.

Atonement (movie) review

Director: Joe Wright

Writer: Christopher Hampton

Cast: Keira Knightly, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai, Benedict Cumberbatch

Release date: December 7, 2007

large_quaWuwYZd8IbZMCOhW3CZEvyCWJ

 

Atonement is the film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel directed by Joe Wright. Briony Tallis is a precocious young girl who likes to write and tell stories. Due to a series of misunderstandings, she ends up impacting the lives of her sister, Cecilia Tallis, and Robbie Turner, the son of the housekeeper. Cecila and Robbie, despite coming from different backgrounds, have deep seated feelings for each other. After a horrific accusation ends up tearing apart their future and lives, the film looks at what happens to the three characters and how their lives changed because of it.

This is the first Joe Wright movie I have seen, and while not without hiccups, it is an impressive work.

As an adaptation, Atonement is spectacular. Aside from cutting scenes for time, the film is as good a translation of the novel to the big screen as there can be. Some conversations are even taken verbatim from the pages of the book. The hot summer day, the chaos at Dunkirk, and the sterile hospital described in the novel are recreated visually to an amazing degree.

I have nothing bad to say about this movie’s direction. Joe Wright’s filmmaking abilities cannot be disputed. He frames every shot exactly as it needs to be framed, making them either intimate or epic and overpowering depending on the scene. No matter where a scene is taking place, Wright and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey make every one of them beautiful. What better proof of this is there than the famous long tracking shot of the chaotic evacuation of Dunkirk? The editing is also great, recreating how the novel used differing perspectives to tell its story.

Of course, Atonement can’t just get on by a great look alone. It needs to have what the book did: an emotional and heady plot with interesting characters. Being a faithful adaptation of great source material, the movie would have at least some of the original’s strengths by accident or design. Luckily, Christopher Hampton’s screenplay manages to capture most of the novel’s strengths and gives a very good distillation of the original’s plot and themes. Briony Tallis, Cecilia Tallis, and Robbie Turner are some of the most memorable characters that I have had the pleasure of seeing grow and change. Briony especially, is a dynamic character that radically changes from the person we first see her as. No character is given the short stick and everyone has their moment. We see the effects of what an overactive imagination can have, and how damaging biases can be. Joe Wright uses the techniques of filmmaking to connect with the theme of how an event can be perceived differently by others depending on perspective. A scene will be shown twice, from one perspective, then another. As with the novel, it contains an ending that will completely shock and sadden you, and recontexualize the majority of what you have just watched.

Atonement boasts an outstanding cast that give memorable and believable performances. Saoirse Ronan was a perfect choice as young Briony, delivering what might be the best performance in the whole film, and one of the best child performances there is. Keira Knightly is of course, also quite good as Cecilia Tallis, and Ian McAvoy is another case of bullseye casting as Robbie Turner. The two have amazing chemistry together. A performance that I think has gone under the radar is Benedict Cumberbatch’s. It is a small but impactful role that is unforgettable and disturbing. He plays a charming and superficially likable character, but there is always an undercurrent of creepiness and a predatory nature whenever he appears. It’s a disturbing portrayal of a sexual predator.

I would be remiss not to mention the film’s score and usage of sound. Atonement has a beautiful score, one of the most relaxing and sad I have ever heard from Dario Marianelli. Lastly, the film creatively uses a typewriting sound effect during pivotal scenes, involving Briony. It flawlessly mixes in with the music, and is another case of the medium’s strengths being used to work with the material’s themes of how destructive flawed perspectives can be.

Sadly, Atonement is not perfect or even great, as a film or as an adaptation. While it is as faithful an adaptation of the novel as it can be, some aspects don’t translate well into film. Conversations and bits of dialogue that sounded good on the page sometimes sound stilted and unnatural when spoken by actual people. Which is odd because McEwan’s dialogue in the book is very good and is a pretty accurate representation of how people of that period would talk. It’s the delivery that is the issue. The third act is the weakest section of the film, which depicts Briony all grown up as a nurse during World War II. It’s shorter compared to the other sections in the film and there isn’t enough time spent with her in this stage in her life. The most memorable scene is when she finally meets Robbie and Cecilia again for the first time in years. The word “undercooked” comes to mind when talking about this section of the movie. The first act is the strongest and most consistent of the film, while the other two acts are not quite able to reach the high standard set by it.

Atonement is a very good albeit flawed movie. It does fumble the longer it goes on, but it is elevated by great performances, directing, cinematography, music, and characters. The movie has a lot of ambition, and its faults can be traced back to trying to do too much. That is something I wish I could say for more films. Despite it’s flaws, Atonement is well crafted, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally engaging. Give it a watch.

Score: 7.5/10

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear review

Writer: Frank Miller

Artist: John Romita Jr.

Inker: Al Williamson

Colorist: Christie Scheele

Issues: 5

Run: 1993

dd468a2df14710988e879d68ec3983cd_xl

This will be my first comic book review

Daredevil is a character I have a limited experience with. I only got my interest in the character from the excellent Netflix series that ended just last year. Deciding to take the plunge into the character more, I started with the miniseries detailing his origin: Daredevil: The Man Without Fear.

Written by Frank Miller with artwork from John Romita Jr., The Man Without Fear is a well done starting place for newcomers such as myself. It follows a very impressive balancing act of being self contained, and setting up pieces for the stories in Matt Murdoch’s future.

The Man Without Fear plays out more like a gritty crime book than your typical superhero origin story. Instead of supervillains, there are mobsters and hitmen. Instead of plots to take over the world or even the city, the scale of evil is drug pushing, child abducting, and mugging. Hell’s Kitchen is a violent, mean place to live, where even the good people have to do bad to survive. Whether you’re a fan of superheroes or not, this is a miniseries that will keep your interest.

The strongest point of the miniseries is the depiction of Matt Murdoch’s journey into becoming Daredevil. We begin with him just as a child, being raised by a single father. We see what kind of kid Matt was like before his accident. We see the multiple sides there are to him. He makes terrible, terrible mistakes at multiple points throughout the comic. His first night as a vigilante ends with him accidently killing a mostly innocent person. When he starts a relationship with Electra while in college, he lets his infatuation with her totally blind him to her glaring flaws. He’s not always depicted in a flattering light, which makes his acts of heroism that much stronger. He’s a good man but with personality flaws that inhibit him just as much as his enemies. Lastly, while his abilities are impressive, he does not have any superpowers. He has no super strength, magic powers, or mutant abilities; and he often takes as many beatings as he dishes out. These traits are what make him a true hero and why you always root for him, because he never backs down and fights on in spite of his failings.

The miniseries makes sure to give just as much care and attention to the side characters to give Matt’s world life. Matt’s father is clearly a sympathetic figure, but he’s also a washout drunk who hits his son in a moment of anger and needs to take up work for the mob to provide for his son. The mentor figure, Stick, is very different from other comic book mentor figures. He’s tough to the point of cruel towards Matt, and for most of the book regards him as a failure whom he has no use for. It’s only around the end when we begin to see anything resembling a soft side. Elektra’s depiction here is interesting and shows the best and worst habits of Frank Miller’s writing. She is not a boring character, and the subplot surrounding her tries to show her being in conflict with her own murderous urges and love for Matt. However, she is mostly depicted as a bloodthirsty murderer. The book seems to imply she only kills people who are bad so that she doesn’t kill innocent people, but this isn’t shown very well. Conceptually she’s sound: a dark reflection of what Matt could have become if he let his emotions get the best of him. The execution is what is left desired.

Interestingly, the side character who is probably most important to the Daredevil series, is held at an arm’s length in this book: The Kingpin. Despite being Daredevil’s arch nemesis, Wilson Fisk is used in a more distant manner. He and Matt never meet once in the book. Matt does not even become aware of Fisk’s existence by the end, but Fisk starts to become aware of Daredevil, and the seeds of their conflict are planted. There is an equal of amount of character and world building in the book, for better and worse. I add in worse because sometimes the book gets too interested in setting up the pieces for Daredevil’s future stories. There are allusions to supernatural forces that Daredevil will fight in the future, and Elektra’s true nature and relationship to them. It will probably encourage readers to buy trade collections of the Miller run, but it does bog the book down and conflicts with its mostly self contained nature.

John Romita Jr.’s artwork here is masterful, and neither fades behind nor overshadows Miller’s writing. It’s gorgeous and gritty, with fantastically drawn action scenes. Every punch and gunshot looks nasty and feels visceral. His characters are not drawn in an idealized manner, which fits with the gritty tone of the book. Hell’s Kitchen is wonderfully realized as a downtrodden, ugly place, and the panels have many little details added in for realism. His style is not suited for every series and book he’s done, but it definitely fits here.

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear is a great starting place to begin reading the character. It is dragged down by a few missteps in characterization and places where new readers might be more confused than intrigued, but the writing and artwork raise it above those flaws.

Score: 8/10

 

Alita: Battle Angel review

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Writers: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis

Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, Jackie Earle Haley, Ed Skrein

Release date: February 14, 2019

Alita-Battle-Angel-poster-6-600x889

This is yet another attempt at making a good American live action adaptation of a manga/anime. This is a project James Cameron has been wanting to make for years, but it’s Robert Rodriguez who is in the director’s seat this time. Alita: Battle Angel is certainly an interesting and ambitious film, but it falls short of its goals.

Alita: Battle Angel adapts the manga Battle Angel Alita, which I have not gotten around to reading yet. Set in a cyberpunk future, Alita is an amnesiac teenage cyborg repaired by a kindly doctor named Ido. As Alita gains more memories of her past, she makes friends with a boy named Hugo, and enemies with those in power.

Alita: Battle Angel boasts impressive visuals, some well done action scenes, and a strong performance from the main lead. I was actually taken aback by how realistic the effects were for turning Rosa Salazar’s face into the big eyed anime girl. While there are a few moments of jarring greenscreen, for the most part, everything was seamless. It also smartly mixes in a few practical effects with the CGI. The action scenes are very well shot and directed, with some rather gruesome violence for a PG-13 film. The scenes involving a sport called Motorball are some of the most exciting and fun to watch in the whole film. The world feels lived in with every shot of another citizen or building telling you a little more about the setting and its people. It’s got some great filmmaking and eye candy in it, make no mistake.

All that said, the movie severely suffers from a bloated plot. It’s only just over two hours long, and has material for two or three movies. Rather than focus on one story arc and leave the rest for sequels, it opts to try and cover all of them. It moves from plot point to plot point without giving any one of them time to develop fully. Either cut down on the material, or make it much longer. There is a sport called Motorball in the film’s world that has a whole tournament centered around it, and ends up being integral to the plot and development of the character. It’s barely given any more importance than the other events of the film. The plot is scattershot and tries too hard to cover as many arcs as possible to set up a sequel it hasn’t earned. The longer it goes on, the more obvious it is that the film is struggling to fit in as much material as possible, and it crumbles under the weight of trying to do too much with too little time. Structurally, it plays out like a fighting anime: Alita will fight an enemy, and will either gain memories of her past back or a powerup that makes her even stronger. This sort of story structure would work for a longer form of storytelling, but this is a single movie. Different rules need to be followed.

I have to give attention to some of the dialogue in this script. It’s very cheesy, and not always in an endearing way. Near the end of the film, there’s a death scene that caused me to chuckle because of the lines and the delivery of them. Other lines of dialogue elevate the corniness due to good delivery, or there is a level of cringe that is intentional, such as Alita trying to give an inspiring speech that falls completely flat.

Alita’s cast gets high marks, mostly. Rosa Salazar makes Alita come off as both a badass and an adorably naïve teenager. Salazar’s best acting comes from her use of facial expressions and eyes. It’s an effective and emotional performance that helps us track Alita’s development over the course of the film. In addition to her, Christoph Waltz does a great job as Alita’s father figure, coming across as a warm and wise man but also adding layers to the role. Ed Skrein plays an unlikable bounty hunter named Zapan, and boy does he do a great job of making you hate this tool. Too bad Keean Johnson and Mahershala Ali fail to leave much of an impression, as well as Edward Norton. Yeah, Edward Norton is in this, merely as a tease for movies to come. If you’re going to have him, give him something to do.

Alita: Battle Angel is not an abomination like Death Note was, but it is still not the success we were all hoping it would be. It starts strong but loses steam the longer it goes on. It’s an admirable attempt with very strong qualities, but only an attempt nonetheless.

Score: 5.5/10

Atonement review

Author: Ian McEwan

Published: 2001

6867

Atonement by Ian McEwan is not a good book. Oh no, it is an exceptional book. Telling the story of a lie, and how it transforms the lives of three people at the center of it. It begins in pre-World War II Britain on the grounds of the Tallis family mansion. Briony Tallis is an imaginative young girl who dreams of being a great writer. She has an older sister named Cecilia, who has a relationship with a poor but intelligent young man named Robbie Turner. As the story progresses, we see both the effects of the lie and World War II on the characters and how they change in response. All culminating in a doozy of a twist ending that will throw everything you thought about the novel through a loop.

The plot of Atonement manages to balance out romance, war, drama, and metafiction. Under a lesser writer the book would seem too scattershot and unfocused, but Ian McEwan manages to make the book so sharp, and so singular in its vision. He always reaches far, but never too far. Even when you might think that he’s diverting onto a plot point that doesn’t add up, once you reach the end it all becomes clear.

The characters in this book are multi-faceted and complex. Briony, Cecilia, and Robbie are the main characters and all three are given plenty of development. Robbie is an ambitious medical student from a humble background, while Cecilia, who comes from high society, has always had feelings for him. Briony is the closest we have to a protagonist, and she has the most radical character arc in the whole book. As a child, she has an energetic imagination that we see is used for both good and evil. It’s not entirely intentional on her part, but there is an undeniable hint of malice in what she did. This error in judgement scars her in its own way, and the imaginative, energetic child does not last. Who we later see is a sad, remorseful young lady who spends the rest of her life atoning for what she did. The relationship between Cecilia and Robbie is the kind that has been done before, but it doesn’t matter because the execution is so well done.

The central theme at play is how people can spend the rest of their lives atoning for one mistake they made, or get caught up in the mistakes of others. Robbie is sent off to World War II as a supposed method of atonement for what he did. Briony supposedly gives up her dreams of becoming writer, opting to be a wartime nurse because that is how she sees her route to redemption.

In addition to writing great characters, McEwan shows an amazing talent for description as well. Whether he’s describing exciting or mundane scenes and settings, he does so with such detail and skill that it is all the help a reader needs to imagine picture them. Some examples include:

The open French windows framed a greenish sky, and against that, in silhouette at some distance, the familiar head and shoulders of her brother. As she made her way across the room she heard the tinkle of ice cubes against his glass, and as she stepped out she smelled the pennyroyal, chamomile and feverfew crushed underfoot, and headier now than in the morning. (page 100)

The rich soil was clinging to his boots. Only in nightmares were feet so heavy. A bomb fell on the road, way over in the center of the village, where the lories were. But one screech hid another, and it hit the field before he could go down. The blast lifted him forward several feet and drove him face first into the soil. (page 223)

The underwater lights, installed that spring, were still a novelty. The upward blush gleam gave everything around the pool a colorless, moonlit look, like a photograph. (page 149)

McEwan also shows that he is very good at writing believable dialogue, not just in adults but in children as well:

“You saw him then.”

“I know it was him.”

Let’s forget what you know. You’re saying you saw him.”

“Yes, I saw him.”

“Just as you see me.”

“Yes.”

“You saw him with your own eyes.”

“Yes. I saw him. I saw him.” (Page 169)

Lastly, this book has one of the most sensual love scenes I have ever read in a book. It’s probably the most famous scene in the whole book. It’s better to just go in and read it yourself.

While Atonement has been published for eighteen years now, and it had a film adaptation in 2007, I will not spoil the major twist which recontexualizes nearly the entire plot. It’s one of those twists that completely changes how one reads the book upon a second visit. It engages in how we use stories, and the inherent deceitfulness of them. It not only casts the whole book in a new light, the various techniques used in the book take on a new light. This use of perspective is something that is used early on. One chapter will depict a scene from one character’s point of view, and the next will have that same scene but from another, more honest perspective.

As much as I want to state that it is flawless, it is not. While its characters, prose, and plot are all well written and tightly constructed, some parts of it are weaker than others. There are points where the pacing slows down too much. These are found in the second and third parts of the book. Thankfully, it doesn’t take too long for the book to pick up again, and for exciting scenes or passages that give insight into the characters to come back. I would say that the second part is the weakest one, even if it does have some of the most exciting scenes. The first part and third parts are when the strongest character interactions take place.

Atonement is a great book. It has great writing, great characters, an intelligent story with weighty themes, and is only pulled down by a few pacing issues and some unevenness. It has easily earned its place on my favorite books list.

Score: 9/10