'Atonement' & 'Pride And Prejudice' combined review

“Keira Knightley is the best British actress to emerge in the past decade,” gushes Joe Wright on the extras to his Jane Austen adap. Now, this is not a truth universally acknowledged – at least not by anyone who’s seen Domino. But if you drop your guard for an evening, these lit pics make a classy case for the duo’s combined prestige-flick pull. Call it the Wrightley stuff.

In Prejudice, Knightley rules the squawking Bennet roost as Austen’s Elizabeth. As the younger Bennets (look, it’s Talulah Riley and Carey Mulligan!) bustle about her shawls, Knightley looks more generous and alert than usual, her often aloof detachment sidelined. She’s more brittle in Wright’s adap of Atonement – Ian McEwan’s war-lashed romantic tragedy – but she still convinces as both a posh flapper in dazzling dinner garb and saucy minx in swimwear. Wright frames her impeccably, nailing the erotic charge between Knightley and James McAvoy as surely as he does McEwan’s nuanced riffs on storytelling and, in that flash-bastard Dunkirk shot, the tale’s epic scope.

His camerawork gains lustre and depth on Blu, though the discs are saddled with SD-edition extras only, which range from solid-ish puff-pieces to deathly guides to P&P’s stately homezzzz. But the films deserve revisits, displaying more energy and style than your average period snoozer and providing credible settings for Keira. Where was he when she made The Duchess, eh?

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