For me, Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice (#11) was the biggest surprise of the year, a film that far, far surpassed my modest expectations. One could argue that even a shoddy adaptation of a Jane Austen novel would be watchable (the source material is that good), yet a film that attempts to fit her best work into about two hours - and when a prior effort has, in my opinion, already achieved perfection - has a great uphill challenge ahead of it (to say the least). Happily, Wright and his team somehow pulled off the impossible, being original and concise without undermining the source material, or repeating the past efforts of other films. Deborah Moggach's screenplay (with help from Emma Thompson, herself no stranger to Austen adaptations) is something of a small miracle, touching on all the beloved moments in the novel without resorting to hurried "Coles Notes" tactics. In every aspect, the film is a winner, from its outstanding esemble cast (with the exception of the horrid Rupert Friend as Mr. Wickham) to the rich musical score by Dario Marianelli to the dazzling choreography of Wright's camera. It is undoubtedly the best-looking film of the year as well, its costumes, sets and cinematography rivaled only by the gorgeous production values on Wong Kar-Wai's 2046. Even Keira Knightley, who has been painful to watch on-screen otherwise, gives what will probably be the best performance of her career (prove me wrong, Keira! I like being surprised). Perhaps the highest kudos of praise I can give to this film is that it gave me new insight into and appreciation of a text I thought I knew inside-out; that it was able to take a story so well-known (and over-done) and make it seem seemingly untouched.
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