Atonement (2007) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
676 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Best adaptation of a novel ever!
b_morelos5 March 2008
I usually don't like watching novels turned into movies (specially when I liked the novel as much as I liked McEwan's "Atonement") but this was a really pleasant surprise. The plot is extraordinarily well adapted, leaving out what cannot possibly be included in a two-hour film, changing very few details to translate literary language to cinematographic language but sticking to the essence and the spirit of the novel.

I really believe that if you enjoyed McEwan's novel, you will fall for this beautiful film. If you have never read McEwan, you will fall for the intriguing and thrilling story written by this wonderful English novelist.

Please, don't miss this one!
105 out of 131 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Forgive Our Foolish Ways
JamesHitchcock21 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Atonement" is structurally comparable to a three-act play, with a brief epilogue. The three central characters are Briony, the younger daughter of the wealthy Tallis family, her older sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner, Cecilia's childhood friend. Robbie is from a humble social background (his mother is one of the family's servants), but academically brilliant, and Mr Tallis has paid for him to be educated through grammar school and Cambridge, where he has obtained a First. A brilliant future seemingly awaits him, in whatever profession he chooses, and he wants to pursue a career in medicine.

Act I begins like an upper-class comedy of manners. The setting is the Tallis family's stately home, on a hot summer's day in 1935. Briony, a precocious thirteen-year-old with ambitions to be a writer, has written a play to be performed by herself and her three cousins, but this project proves abortive due to disagreements between them. Robbie has fallen in love with Cecilia and accidentally sends her a sexually explicit love-letter. In other circumstances this might have resulted in disgrace, but as Cecilia returns his passion the accident seems to have been a happy one. The tone of the film changes abruptly, however, when Briony's cousin Lola is sexually assaulted. Lola cannot identify her assailant, but Briony, who was a witness, falsely accuses Robbie. As a result, he is convicted of attempted rape and sent to prison.

In Act II, set in 1940, Robbie, released from jail, is now a soldier with the British Army in France. He is desperately trying to reach Dunkirk ahead of the advancing Germans, kept going not by fighting spirit or patriotism, but by the hope of returning to Cecilia, who has stood by him throughout his trial and imprisonment, becoming estranged from her family as a result. In Act III we see Briony, now eighteen, as a volunteer nurse in a London hospital. It is in this Act that the theme of atonement comes to the fore. Briony is starting to have doubts about her identification of Robbie as Lola's attacker, so much so that she offers to withdraw her previous testimony and help him clear his name. Her decision to work as a nurse rather than go to university and to devote herself to caring for the wounded can also be seen as an attempt to atone for the part she played in blighting the life of an innocent man and in tearing her family apart.

After "The Last King of Scotland" and "Becoming Jane", James McEvoy is the rising male star of the British cinema, and his performance here is the best yet that I have seen. Whereas Dr Garrigan in "The Last King…" was morally flawed, and Lefroy in "Becoming Jane" hid his better nature beneath a roguish exterior, Robbie is unambiguously heroic. McEvoy succeeds in conveying his character's basic decency, achieving the difficult task of making him good without making him seem dull.

Keira Knightley is another rising British star, and this is her second film with director Joe Wright after "Pride and Prejudice". Although she was good in the comedy "Bend it like Beckham", I think that her films with Wright are her best, suggesting that her future lies with serious drama rather than popcorn epics like "Pirates of the Caribbean" in which she seemed miscast. Her Cecilia was not only the loveliest, but also the liveliest and most spirited heroine of any film I have seen recently. Special mentions must also go to Saoirse Ronan as the young Briony and to Vanessa Redgrave who plays the now-elderly Briony in the epilogue, set in 1999. I felt, however, that Romola Garai, at 25, was too old as the eighteen-year-old Briony.

This was only Wright's second feature film, and he has already established himself as an accomplished director. "Pride and Prejudice" is a good film, but "Atonement" is better. Ian McEwan's book is among the best novels of recent years, and I doubt if any cinematic treatment could capture all its nuances. One of its themes in particular, the debate between literary traditionalism and modernism, seems beyond the scope of any visual medium, and Wright and the scriptwriter Christopher Hampton wisely steer clear of it. Hampton, who has turned the book into a very good screenplay, keeps McEwan's final twist, although it is here presented in a different way, with Briony revealing the truth in an TV interview.

If, however, the film does not capture all the literary nuances of the novel, Wright makes up for this with his extraordinary visual imagination, something sometimes lacking in films based upon novels. "Atonement" joins that list of films ("Far from Heaven" and "Girl with a Pearl Earring" are other examples that come to mind) where almost every scene seems composed like a painting. This is true not only of Act I, set in that beautiful stately home (actually Stokesay Court in Shropshire), but also of Act II, where Wright can find a terrible beauty even in war, especially in the scenes of the burning town and that long shot of the Dunkirk beaches in the grey morning light. Particularly moving was the scene where the British soldiers sing "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind". The second line of John Greenleaf Whittier's hymn is, of course, "Forgive Our Foolish Ways"- a particularly apt comment on war, and perhaps on the behaviour of some of the characters.

Also very good was Dario Marianelli's musical score, which (appropriately for a film in which writing plays an important part) incorporated the sound of typewriter keys tapping. Altogether an excellent film- I can only hope that its British origins and late summer (traditionally blockbuster season) release date will not prejudice the Academy against it when it comes to next year's Oscars. 9/10
176 out of 232 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Beautiful, sad, and McAvoy excels as usual.
PizzicatoFishCrouch26 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
13-year-old Briony Tallis is a girl with a huge imagination who loves to write. The film starts at her completion of a play, "The Trials of Arabella", a morality tale on love and the dangers of being too hasty with one's emotions. From her opening line in the prologue, various multisyllabic words that I didn't understand were employed, and the audience giggles at her pretension: evidently, this is a girl whose world is shaped with words, regardless of whether or not she understands them. Witnessing her sister Cecilia dive into a pool as their housekeeper's son Robbie watches after her, Briony pictures as scene she has no understanding of, and, by the end of the day, she will have changed lives for the worse, and she will spend the rest of her life regretting and trying to atone this mistake.

The first act of the film, set in the picturesque country house, effectively conveys the sweltering heat of the British Summer and the mental unrest that comes with it. The camera never stays still, and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey even used Christian Dior stockings over the lenses to portray the heat and its effects on the residents. As Briony starts thinking about what she doesn't understand, trying to write a play of it, Dario Marianelli's haunting score, which features the rhythmic tapping of typewriter keys, reverberates in the background, to continually remind the audience that something bad is about to happen. The dramatic quality of the film is heightened with different events are replayed from different perspectives to show what something has the appearance of being, and what it really is. This device, though not new, works excellently for Atonement.

The second act of the film, set 4 years later, is much grittier and less pretty to watch. Robbie is now a soldier in France, and pines to get back to Cecelia. The horrors of war are not underplayed, and in one excellently-filmed tracking shot, the camera meanders through a chaotic mess of soldiers. Robbie, who had turned out so well before, has not lost practically all of his beauty, and retains only his accent. Similarly, back at home, soldiers with all sorts of disturbing injuries are shown. It is refreshing to see a film that, rather than portraying the war as some sort of patriotic honour, instead shows the horror and suffering that it causes.

In what could only be a nod to David Lean with his country houses, upper middle classes and epic romances, Joe Wright chose for his actors to give performances of the pre-Lee Strasburg era. And the cast rise up to the challenge admirably. As the young Briony, Saoirse Ronan is pitch-perfect, conveying her youthful innocence as well as whiny nosiness. Her sense of knowing about things she clearly doesn't is infuriating, but Ronan prevents us from denouncing her entirely, reminding us that she is, after all, just a child. Keira Knightley, who will be keen to forget her "performance" in her other 2007 venture, Pirates of the Caribbean III, doesn't do anything majorly wrong here, and at times even earns the audience's respect and sympathies as the loyal lover. Romola Garai plays the older, more wise Briony with conviction and a touch of sadness.

But the star of the show is the one, the only, James McAvoy. In the Q&A that followed the screening of the film, director Joe Wright described Robbie as the highest form of a human being, and he is. Even after he is put in the war to avoid staying in prison for longer, he does not whinge about it, but instead, gets through the day with the hope of seeing Cecelia guiding him through. James McAvoy plays this special individual with compassion and understanding. He has the accent and physicality of Robbie down to a T, but, more importantly, conveys his goodness, without ever having to resort to histrionics. McAvoy's performance is a masterclass in subtle acting. In some pivotal scenes, it is actually his beautiful blue eyes that do the acting more than anything, and they speak more words than Briony's ostentatious prose ever could.

There is more than a little similarity between Atonement and The Go-Between. Both tell of love between different classes, and an intruding message carrier between the two. Furthermore, Sarah Greenwood's sensuous set design (in the first act) and accurate war holes (in the second), along with the sound design, which features buzzing bees, works cleverly on a subconscious level to add to the tension. Indeed, Atonement is a technically and visually stunning film. The hues in the first act are almost overly saturated with richness, and this contrasts starkly to the second act, where cold hospital wards and mucky brown war dugouts fill the screen. The costumes are all realistic and accurate, though I personally favour the glamorous designs of the first half, which include a mesmerizing green dress that Cecelia wears. The cinematography, which encompasses long takes, tracking shots, lingering pans all attribute to the visual flair of the movie. But the key stylistic element that stood out for me, was the score. The piano theme is elegiac and melancholy, and the cello and violins also add to the sadness of the romance. Also, the use of a typewriter as an instrument, though started oddly, soon becomes infectious and it even forces its way into viewer's minds, making Robbie's note (and the consequences) unforgettable.

Joe Wright and Working Title have made a film to be proud of. Amidst some incredible scenes (such as an extremely erotic library non-reading session between Robbie and Cecelia). The quality and calibre of films that Working Title have turned out recently have been brilliant (Pride & Prejudice, Hot Fuzz, etc) and Atonement ranks up there along with my personal favourites Dead Man Walking and The Hudsucker Proxy. It is a wonderfully crafted, beautifully lush and immensely moving film that shows, above all, how storytelling can both destroy and heal.
159 out of 212 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Great interpretation of a wonderful novel
chelseachelsea20 August 2007
I saw a preview of this film yesterday and felt privileged to be one of the first people to see the film. It was also a pleasure to see a film before reading any other critical review or opinion. I am a great fan of Ian Mcewan and was concerned that it would not be possible to capture the subtleties and nuances of Mcewan's writing but I needn't have had any worries. The director, Joe Wright and screenplay writer Christopher Hampton have done a superb job and the complexities of the novel are superbly captured with real imagination. The story is set in three main areas, an English country house in 1935, war torn France 1940 and London 1940. The atmosphere in of all three are wonderfully captured by the director, cinematographer, costume design and score and I am sure that there are going to be some Oscar nominations for these. James McAvoy as lead man gives a tremendous performance of a restrained but passionate man. I was not as convinced by Keira Knightley's performance and am not sure that her acting has the mature edge to capture the social nuances of the times that McAvoy did so successfully. Do not see this film if you like fast paced films and rapid plot development! This is not a film for the pop video generation. If however you like character development and a plot that unravels at a pace that allows you to be immersed in the atmosphere of the film then I can highly recommend Atonement as one of the best films that I have seen this year.
341 out of 470 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One Third of "Atonement" Is Brilliant
evanston_dad17 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The first third of "Atonement" is superb. We are introduced to a group of affluent English aristocrats whiling away their summer hours at a massive estate. One of them, Cecilia (Keira Knightley), is nursing a raging case of sexual attraction to her childhood friend and now family gardener, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), while another, Cecilia's young sister Briony (Saoirse Ronan), spends her day writing a play which she plans to perform for a family gathering later that evening. Everyone is bored and listless in the summer heat. Briony, prey to an overactive imagination, keeps witnessing a series of increasingly serious moments of intimacy between Cecilia and Robbie that she isn't old enough to fully understand, and finally a false accusation by her is responsible for sending Robbie away from the estate in handcuffs. Everything about this part of the film is brilliant. The director Joe Wright ratchets the sexual tension to an almost unbearable pitch, and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen.

But then the story and movie switched gears, and it lost some of that narrative momentum it had been so wonderfully building. The second and third acts of the film, while accomplished, do not deliver on the promise set up in the film's first part, and the movie never really succeeded in sucking me back in. When we next see Robbie, he's wandering through the desolate battlefields of WWII France, pining for Cecilia and nursing a chest wound. Wright shows off mightily in this part of the film; there's an astounding ten-minute tracking shot that depicts the allied forces on the beach of Dunkirk that will have cineastes slobbering. But like Robbie's mind, this part of the film starts to wander aimlessly, and even while I was admiring the sheer planning that went into this amazing shot, I couldn't help but wish that Wright would just get on with it already.

Finally, the film circles back to Briony, four years older and working as a nurse tending to the wounded. She's suffering a tremendous amount of guilt for the wrongs she's only now beginning to understand and wants to reach out to Cecilia (from whom she's now estranged) and Robbie to offer her apologies. I've not read the Iam McEwan novel on which this film is based, but even I could tell that this is where the screenwriter, Christopher Hampton, had the most trouble adapting the novel to the screen. Much of what "Atonement" is about becomes clear in this last act, as Briony ages into Vanessa Redgrave, a successful novelist who has finally written a novel that works as an outlet for her devastating feelings of guilt. We begin to realize here that "Atonement" isn't as much about the love affair between Cecilia and Robbie as it is about the act of writing and the power of words. Briony learns as a little girl how difficult words are to take back once they've been said; as an adult, she learns the ability of words to help us deal with regret. One particular scene that takes place between Cecilia, Robbie and Briony is a fiction inserted into their story by Briony the novelist; it's the story as she wishes it had been rather than as it actually was. Briony the woman can't change the past, but Briony the novelist can.

This is a wonderful idea, but unfortunately the screenplay doesn't quite know how to communicate this in cinematic terms, so it's told directly to the audience by Redgrave in a monologue at the film's conclusion. Redgrave is a luminous actress, but her soliloquy feels awkwardly inserted into the film. As for the other actors, they all do fine work. The young actress Saoirse Ronan is especially good, and James McAvoy proves further that he's becoming one of the finest young actors working today. But the screenplay sort of abandons him and Knightley after its first half hour or so to a warmed over version of "The English Patient," and the strong impact they both make early on dissipates gradually.

I admired "Atonement" for how it looked and the ideas it had to express, but I think it's an uneven film that doesn't entirely work.

Grade: B+
268 out of 370 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Atonement - a feast for the eyes.
jayceetees16 September 2007
My wife and I went to see the movie last night and were totally blown away by the whole experience. So brilliantly directed and acted. The movie time just flew by and we were drawn in and captivated by each dramatic moment. Never having read the book or been an expert on WW2, I had a truly open mind on what to expect and I'm not one of those who count every rivet or go looking for technical inaccuracies however small. This was truly a masterpiece of cinematography. We were treated to wonderful performances, lavish sets, shocking and thought-provoking moments and haunting themes. I had the privilege of being an extra in the Redcar, Dunkirk scene and once seen in its full glory and effect on the big screen I was simply in awe and glad to have been a part of it. Walking along Redcar beach from now on will never quite be the same again. I am quite sure that the movie will win a number of awards within the next 12 months, but that is not what really matters. Movies are there to entertain, tell a story and affect you emotionally and by God this did it in spades! If you have not seen it yet, you must!
392 out of 555 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Pure poetry on film
seawalker10 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
My brain tends to turn to mush in the presence of greatness. This makes it difficult when I want to write about something that I thought was truly great. It is so much easier to write about something that is rubbish.

Oh, well. Here goes.

I thought that "Atonement" was terrific. It is a really great movie. Obviously it is early days yet, and there are a lot of contenders still to appear, but "Atonement" might just be the winner-in-waiting of the Best Film Oscar in 2008. Put your money on it now.

"Atonement" is pure poetry on film. From the hazy, dreamy, hopeful days of 1935, a destructive act of spite, the horrors of Dunkirk (with one of the most fantastic long takes I have seen in a cinema for a very long), to the aftermath and a devastating "happy" ending, it is a magnificent and moving film, beautifully directed by Joe Wright.

I have never really rated Keira Knightley or understood her popularity. Except for her role in "Pride & Prejudice" (for which she was perfectly cast) I have tended to refer to her as Girl-Who-Would-Be-Winslet, as I thought that she had not played a single role that Kate Winslet could not have done better. Maybe I won't say that anymore. "Atonement" is easily the best thing Keira Knightley has done.

Keira Knightley has had a lot of the press over here, but we should not forget to mention the pitch perfect performances from James McAvoy and Romola Garai. They share as much screen time as La Knightley and are as impressive.

Wonderful film.

Gushing over.
340 out of 484 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
If this doesn't win Best Picture next year it will have been robbed!
simonparker199010 September 2007
Its very rare that a movie like Atonement comes along and leaves me completely speechless and in complete and utter awe for hours after I have seen it. You see Atonement isn't just the best movie I have seen all year, its one of the best movies I have seen in a very, very long time. And by that I include Pan's Labyrinth, yes this movie is better than my favourite movie of 2006, and I never imagined Atonement would ever come close to that level of greatness until fifteen minutes into the movie last night. Atonement is an unusual movie, in fact its fair to say that I have never seen anything quite like it. Its a rare movie that actually I adored so much that I am going to hunt down a copy of the book tomorrow just to see the comparisons. Its not an easy movie I'll be honest, if you go in expecting something light hearted and easy to digest then you will leave the cinema feeling very cheated. This is a movie that deals with very dark things at times. No matter how much I desire to write in depth about every aspect of the movie I just can't, the movies greatest triumph is the fact that its plot is so intricately woven that if you ruin one part of the storyline to anyone then the movies impact is slightly lessened. The storyline is just brilliant, but its the climax that leaves you in store for the biggest shocker, and its this shocker that leaves you reeling long after you have left the cinema. The performances here are all spectacular, I think its fair to say that the two leads, James McAvoy and Keira Knightly shall be receiving at the very least nominations for Best Actor/Best Actress. The score is beautiful, whoever came up with the idea of using a typewriter as a musical instrument deserves to be praised heavily. Its rare a score leaves me feeling moved, the score in this movie did that for me. That's yet another Oscar that this movie deserves to win. All in all Atonement is just perfection, I doubt you'll find a better movie this year or even for the next three years. In a time when Blockbusters get all the attention it is nice to see a small, but intelligent movie leave me in awe.

As I previously mentioned the performances in this movie is simply amazing. Keira Knightly is an odd actress, while she proved herself in Pride and Prejudice, yes I have unfortunately seen that movie, she comes across as a wooden actress in films like Pirates of the Caribbean. Atonement really sees her at her best yet. Her character is different from what we've seen Knightly play before. Usually she goes for the spunky females, this time she seems more like a proper lady, albeit one that smokes constantly and is a bit stuck up for her own good. Keira Knightly excels in the earlier, more laid back sequences, but its in the later stuff, the more powerful stuff that we see just how talented an actress she truly is. Despite all my praise for Knightly she still plays second fiddle to James McAvoy. The former actor of Shameless and Narnia is on a roll lately. His excellent, although sadly overlooked performance in The Last King of Scotland still sticks firmly in memory. But his performance here is simple breathtaking. One sequence in particular where we see his acting talent come to light has to be the sequence in Dunkirk (more on that later), no words but the performance says everything. Knightly might not be certain to win an Oscar, but McAvoy surely is! Its also refreshing to see a young actress, Saoirse Ronan, not be eye gougingly irritating, but rather a superb actress. Her character, Briony, is a vital character in the movie, and for such a young actress she delivers her performance so chillingly brilliant. Unfortunately next to this brilliant performance, Romola Garai who plays an older Briony pales in comparison. Her performance is still brilliant, but not as effective nor as memorable as the younger actress.

The storyline of Atonement is where the film holds most of its impact. Essentialy the film is about a lie that Briony tells, and how it affects the lives of her, Cecilia, and most importantly of all, Robbie. That's pretty much all I can and will say of the storyline. A lot more happens over the course of the movie, and a lot of stuff that you think will happen doesn't, and things you think won't happen will. The ending is a prime example of this and to be honest I didn't see it coming. The way the movie is directed is also something note. The beautiful colours of the summer house are amazing, but the way the camera moves around the house makes it even better. But the direction will be remembered for one scene in this movie, and its in Dunkirk. I mentioned this previously for the performance in that scene, what I failed to mention is that the shot is a continuous shot that lasts five minutes as we see the chaos of Dunkirk. From horses being shot to a man hanging from a ferris wheel, the sequence is shown in all its glory. It really is a powerful moment, and probably the one scene that got me closest to tears, purely because of the singing in the background, it is shocking just how amazing this sequence truly is.

Overall Atonement is a perfect movie, in actual fact its a movie with pretty much no flaws whatsoever. Superb performances, beautiful direction, a script and storyline to die for. It is unlikely any film will top this for a very long time, this is something that will go down in cinema history as being a classic, and it highly deserves it inevitable status.
597 out of 882 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Amazing!!! Favourite Romantic Movie.
mysterious_boy_927 February 2008
I was completely stunned when I watched Atonement yesterday. From the funny lines to the sad moments, this movie does not fail to amaze me. James McAvoy is by far the shining star in this movie, endowed with unfailing charisma and absolutely adoring accent. The score was impeccable, especially the sound of the typewriter. I loved the scenes from Dunkirk, the hospital, and ,of course, the mansion. It's truly an amazing movie that I consider to be the best of 2007's. The ending was rather sad, but it fits perfectly. Keira Knightley was ineffably wonderful with her charming beauty and brilliant performance. One should really go and watch it because it's a fulfilling experience. I personally give it 10/10.
113 out of 160 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I am not sure why Dunkirk got made when this film exists
CubsandCulture9 February 2020
I deeply appreciate Atonement for other reasons and while the films are about 10 years apart I am utterly perplexed by how Nolan's Dunkirk became the critical darling it is, especially since this film exists. This film isn't about the evacuation of Dunkirk or WWII (those elements form the background for a fully realized troubled romance and family drama) and YET this film spends about 20 minutes on Dunkirk and it conveys the horror, defeat and dread of it it far sharper and more resonant than Nolan's film does for its entire run time. There is a one very long shot of soldiers on the beach that even manages to capture the whole what is time when facing your death thing better than Nolan's film.

With that being said I most appreciate the soft, luminous cinematography and the very atypical score in this film. Indeed atypical flourishes-the split perspective, the inserted fiction within the narrative, what's being atoned for etc.-greatly elevate a sweeping romance that might have been too conventional if the film played it straight up. It is really the details-sometimes as small as word choice-that really make this film a ravishing epic.

Doomed romances rest on their casting and I can say that both Knightley and McAvoy don't disappoint. McAvoy especially is really sexy, beautiful and emotional in this in that perfectly restrained British way. It may be his career best performance. Good film. It is much better than No Country for Old Men.
26 out of 33 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Stunning, absolutely stunning
MissMovieLuver8816 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Based on Ian McEwan's award wining novel of the same name, Atonement tells the story of A British romance that spans several decades. Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a 13-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's lover of a crime he did not commit.

I've waited several months to see Joe Wright's second feature film "Atonement" and it did not disappoint. For an only second feature film by 35 old Joe Wright, it's absolutely astonishing. Directed superbly on all levels. From the stunning Dunkirk visuals, to several Point of view shots empathising each character's need and feelings at that point, you can't help but feel intertwined in the story and with the characters. I haven't seen such an epic of a film since The English Patient, I hope it continues to do well at the box office and worldwide, as it deserved to. I haven't read the novel, so I will do soon.

There are many sensational tracking shots in this, which I loved. For instance, in the Dunkirk scene, we walk with Robbie and see the devastation through his eyes, just amazing. At the beginning, Briony's view of Robbie and Celia is done through two perspectives. One being what Briony believe has happened and two the real truth, this creates a dilemma for the audience as you don't really know who to believe at that point. One shot I loved was of Briony's eye, an extreme close-up almost giving a clue to the viewer. As I mentioned before, I can not believe that Wright has produced such a masterpiece of a film, in only his second feature.

The Dunkirk, scene is something to be remembered. Watching it at the cinema, I was so taken aback by the extraordinary beauty of the scene. The cinematography is sensational. It captures the mood of that time, so well that you can put yourself in there. What works is that you think what you're seeing is real, and everything in every frame of that scene. I can't really describe the words, as it won't really doesn't do justice to what I thought of the scene but let's just say I'm still thinking about it now and will always. Subsequently that scene has to be up there with some of the best war scenes ever created for the silver screen, and I don't often say that unless it's seriously something that has left me speechless beyond any recognition- that hasn't happened. Some other scenes to mention are; Celia and Briony's estate like house and the scenery and the wartime London are also sensational. Plus, there done in such a way you wouldn't expect a 21st century film to make.

As for the acting, that was wonderful from every actor in the picture. Keira Knightly does brilliantly, as she did in Pride and Prejudice, which she deservedly got an Oscar nomination for that. However doing crap films like The Pirates Franchise doesn't do her acting talents any justice. These are the films she should be making as she has the ability to become one of the best British actresses of recent years; she just needs to keep well away from blockbusters. I'm sure she'll gain her 2nd nomination at next years Oscars. However the REAL sensation n this film is James MacAvoy. For me he outshone Knightly on all levels, playing Robbie Turner so, so well that you believed in the character more that Knightly's. I don't quite know how to explain but I'm sure you'll know what I mean when you see it. MacAvoy's performance was so exquisitely done that I almost cried for the first time in a cinema. I'm hopeful MacAvoy will gain his first nomination at the Academy awards. I hope he is in chance of winning one this year, I will jump for joy if he does as he deserves it more than anyone in this film. I must not forget the incredibly supporting cast, from young Saoirse Ronan who brilliantly played Briony aged 13 ,Romola Garai who played Briony aged 18 and the great Vanessa Redgrave(older Briony) who moved me to tears with her final speech at the end. I hope the Academy recognises at least one of those actresses, because they all deserve some recognition.

That soundtrack is stunning beyond words. It brilliantly blends in the mood of that period with every scene that you understand what's going on and the scene becomes visually engaging. I'm sure this score will be Oscar nominated! Finally, I'm sure Antonement will be nominated in several category's at the 2008 Academy awards as it should and deserved to. I haven't seen such an outstanding British film as his for a while now. Although The Queen came close last year, Atonement is the one for me. This is a modern masterpiece and will become an instant classic, as did The English Patient did back in 1996. I hope you will all go out and see it when it reaches your local cinema, as you all should. The best film I've seen this year!
151 out of 229 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Suite Britianna
WriterDave10 December 2007
A budding young writer named Briony witnesses an innocent act she doesn't fully understand between her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and long-time family servant Robbie (James McAvoy) one restless summer day on her family's lavish country estate in 1935 England that leads to scandal in Joe Wright's dreadfully sumptuous adaptation of Ian McEwan's international best-selling novel, "Atonement." Four years later, all three characters try to find their own personal sense of peace or redemption during WWII.

This brief synopsis does nothing to explain the intricate complexities of the plot and actions that take place. Although Keira Knightley's performance is slightly off-putting due to the fact she appears like she just escaped from a concentration camp (surely young British socialites did not look like this in the 1930's), the stunning cast shows full range here racing through curious emotions: spite, lust, recklessness, and selfish wanton abandon. The facial expressions, especially from the children in the early scenes on the estate, are priceless. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic as they are often vain, self-absorbed, and quite silly in their drama, but they are fascinating to watch. The first third of the film is played like a "Masterpiece Theater" production of "The Great Gatsby" as seen through the eyes of Nancy Drew.

However, what makes "Atonement" soar is the impeccable direction of Joe Wright. He makes the most audacious coming-of-age as an auteur since Anthony Minghella delivered "The English Patient" back in 1996. Wright displays a near Kubrickian mastery of sound effects (notice the strikes of the typewriter keys) that transition from scene to scene and often bleed into the amazing score from Dario Marianelli. Wright also crafts a finely textured mise-en-scene that visually translates McEwan's richly composed story onto the screen with near note perfect fashion. Nothing can really prepare you for how well directed this film is until you see it, and the scene of the three soldiers arriving on the beach at the Dunkirk evacuation is one of the greatest stand alone unedited panning long shots ever captured on film. It left me gasping.

That scene leads to the heart of the film. The often clichéd romance at the core is trumped by Wright's depiction of Robbie, a single man forlorn and obsessed, his dizzying inner turmoil reflected against the grand canvas of a chaotic world at war. Likewise, Briony's redemption comes not in the too-clever conclusion at the end of the film, but in the intimate and symbolic confessional at the bedside of a dying French soldier. These moments leave lasting impressions, and left me imagining that if Joe Wright were to ever adapt Irene Nemiorovsky's "Suite Francaise" onto the silver screen, he would knock it so far out of the park it would leave "Gone With Wind" spinning in its gilded Hollywood grave.
124 out of 187 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Love And Death In a Cold Climate
littlemartinarocena23 September 2007
The superb Ian McEwan book translated into cold beautiful images by the startling Joe Wright and scriptwriter Christopher Hampton. The result is a series of powerful rushes and abrupt stops. A pacing that, perhaps, is a bit too self conscious for its own good doesn't help us to connect the emotional dots. I had the feeling I had lost something in the love story of the protagonists - something that didn't happen to me reading the book. By the time the "injustice" takes place I was taken by the pain of the injustice but not by Knightley and McAvoy's liaison. Their love story is left to its own devices. The beauty of the images is overwhelming and the assuredness of Joe Wright at his second feature after the, much better, "Pride and Prejudice" keeps you going. The score tends to be monotonous and irritating but in spite of all that I intend to see "Atonement" again and I would recommend it with just the above mentioned reservations.
138 out of 213 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
my review
guyoline24 August 2007
Well, from the trailers I could tell this would be an epic film before I was even able to see it. I managed to attend a gala screening of the film last night and I thought it was amazing. Despite my constant dislike to Keira Knightly, I was unable to disapprove of her acting in this film. She has improved massively since the first pirates film. The film itself has an intriguing plot line which keeps you hooked throughout. The film includes humour at the start and fascination by the end. I loved watching this film and I enjoyed the smartness of the story. The film is cleverly done with jumps in time and different perspectives of events throughout which will leave you understanding the motives of each character more. The music is composed beautifully, the orchestral tunes accompanied with the clatter that a typewriter makes creates a beautiful piece of music that fits perfectly with the film itself. I have since begun to read the book, the only thing that the film lacks is the character depth that a book can write about but a film simply can't explain. I feel that the film shows what happened but the book is able to explain a little more as to why the events occurred. Overall the film was beautiful, brilliant and emotional.
182 out of 285 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Review by an Antonement extra at Redcar Yorkshire
nick1-71 September 2007
I finished filming as an extra in the blockbuster movie Atonement on August 22nd 2006. I didn't realise I'd have to wait a full 12 months and 1 day to see the end result on screen.

Well was it worth the wait? The answer is yes. The movie has the meticulous detail you would expect from a director of Joe Wright's calibre.

Richard Brooks (writing in the Sunday Times) said he would be amazed if the jury finds a better film than Atonement to take first place at the Venice film festival on August 29th.

He said, "I cannot think of a better British movie in years. Unlike most of our home-grown efforts, it is big scale, yet intimate when it needs to be." I would agree. The story unfolds and the audience is drawn into the plot from the start. It begins in pre-war England in a large country house with James McAvoy's character (Robbie Turner) being wrongly accused of rape and being imprisoned and thus separated from Keira Knightley. He is released from prison on condition he joins the army.

This is a love story and more, with the back drop of the Second World War. Although it is not a war film as such, the scenes of the Dunkirk evacuation are some of the best of their type ever executed in cinema history.

The scene that I was waiting to see was towards the end of the film. Joe Wright shot the Dunkirk scene in Redcar in one complete take, with no edits. It looks amazing, maybe being part of it made me slightly biased, but the human tableau that McAvoy's character walks through engulfs your senses and I can't wait to see it again. My only regret is that it wasn't longer.

Apart from this, Atonement doesn't disappoint in any department, the acting is first class and the story is engaging and I certainly didn't guess the ending. I will definitely see it again, this time at the Regent Cinema in Redcar, where the building is one of the cornerstones of the great set.

And finally did I see myself? Well possibly, the jury's still out, until I get my hands on the DVD next year. Enjoy it.
181 out of 293 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Better Late Than Never - Not Really!
Xstal22 October 2020
Comprising recognisable, realistic and outstandingly beautiful performances, set within an uncomfortably believable and heartbreakingly tragic story, it will leave a mark, a scar, a wound on your soul; especially if you have an ounce of humanity, understanding and empathy for the circumstances within which it is told.
12 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Language Of Cinema Can't Disguise A Problamatic Story
Theo Robertson27 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
When ATONEMENT was released in 2007 I made a point not seeing it due to the hype . Critics were falling over themselves to judge the film a " masterpiece " and it's interesting that all these critics were British . When it comes to harmless shallow jingoism the British film critics are unique . While some countries have an obscene tradition of murdering people because " they're not one of us " the British lovers of art fawn sycophantically over the slightest piece of mediocrity if there's some Anglo-Saxon Celtic connection and since ATONEMENT is set in a pre war 1930s Britain with posh folk we have the archetypal class driven British movie that appeals to jealous egalitarian Americans . It was interesting that the film didn't do very well at the American box office and that despite receiving an avalanche of prestigious nominations it had a very small award from nomination ratio . This tells you something

After seeing it after the hype has been dead for several years my impression of it is that on a technical level it is a very impressive film . From the opening scene which involves both sound editing and imaginative camera work there's a lot to impress cinephiles . Perhaps the most impressive aspect is the cinematography by Seamus McGarvey . The way the colours contrast and seduce the audience with an on screen beauty is worthy of the best works of the great Roger Deakins . There's also a scene set on the beaches of Dunkirk where the camera floats around for ten minutes never cutting once which has entered in to legend . One wonders why director Joe Wright wasn't Oscar nominated for this scene alone . Perhaps he was trying too hard to impress ?

Unfortunately perhaps it was down to some very clumsy errors on the part of the director that he didn't receive more . As was pointed out at the time the story takes place in 1935 then jumps forward with a caption saying " Four Years Later " with the evacuation of Dunkirk which in fact took place in May -June 1940 which every schoolboy of the 1970s would know . This caption can't be defended down to the early segment taking place at the end of 1935 because it's obvious the way people are dressed that it's Summer 1935 . Other irritants involve a Lancaster bomber flying around the skies of 1935 England and a black cockney corporal in the BEF . It's not impossible to have a black cockney in the British army of that time , just unlikely . What would be impossible would be Corporal Mace to be overweight as seen here . Rationing had been introduced and there was little fat in the British diet in those days . Hands up anyone who has seen a photo of a fat person circa 1940 ? Thought not

These irritants might be forgivable but one thing that is fundamentally flawed comes from Ian McEwans source novel . Robbie is found guilty of child rape and sentenced to several years in prison . When he is in Northern France he states that he was given a choice to either serve in the army or complete his sentence . In reality this wouldn't have happened in real life since conscription didn't extend to prisoners serving sentences . This becames even more unlikely when we're shown a segment set " Six Months Earlier " which would place that event round about Nov/Dec 1939 when Robbie has completed basic training . The truth is for Robbie to have completed basic training he'd have needed to join the army before conscription was introduced in the Autumn of 1939 . Before that the British army was an all voluntarily professional army . This fact makes it doubly implausible for a convicted child rapist to be given a choice between serving a sentence and serving in the military

As the title suggests ATONEMENT is a redemption plot but seems poorly translated to screen . The film ends with Briony Tallis on contemporary TV plugging her latest book called Atonement ( Oh Meta-fiction . How wonderfully clever - not ) and stating that the scenes she wrote where she finds a reconcilation between herself on one side and Robbie and Cecillia on the other is total fiction since Robbie died on the beaches of France and Cecillia died in an air raid a few months later . This might have worked on the printed page but comes across as problematic on screen. Put it like this if Robbie was having a death dream that wouldn't be as confusing as what is seen here and you feel somewhat cheated by the way events happen . It's not helped by the fact Briony is a compulsive liar who ruined someone's life . The fact she grew up to be a major successful novelist who will die of old age is another factor that will alienate. Some people are beyond redemption and atonement in its literal ecclesiastical meaning is nonsense to any humanist

In all you can understand to a large degree the number of plaudits and prestigious nominations this film received on its release . It is a visual delight for those of us who understand the language of cinema . Conversely you're also to understand why it wasn't able to convert the acclaim in to actual awards . It is very problematic from a narrative point of view and for a film to achieve true greatness you must find some empathy for the protagonists and empathy is in short supply for this film with its clumsy storytelling and characters
37 out of 60 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
hpanarox15 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I had been so excited to see Atonement since the first time I saw it advertised. Now that tonight I have finally been able to see it I have been left stunned, and now it is all I can think about. The romance between Cecelia and amazing, the chemistry that the two actors have together is captivating and every time they were together I felt pangs in my heart. The two younger actresses who play as Briony are amazing. As I live in Grimsby and I knew that one of the scenes is played in Grimsby I wanted to look out for it, but I was so captivated by the film that I completely forgot to look out for Grimsby. Though I would be glad to see it again, and this time I will try to tear my eyes away from the beauty of the scenery, and acting, and look out for Grimsby. Though this film is a 15 certificate, I begged my mum to buy me tickets, as I am only 14. All I can say is this film is beautiful, and will have you crying, I'm sure of it.
22 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I just didn't care!
LeFreak-521 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The tragedy and poignancy of this wartime love story should've torn my sentimental heart out. But I found I was checking my watch repeatedly during the last hour since I figured out by then that nothing much of great cinematic significance was going to happen.

A privileged and obnoxious precocious rich girl makes a false allegation regarding a decent and mildly likable working class man, and she is believed by virtue of her station in life, effectively ruining his life. This may make some deep statement about the entrenched class system in Britain, but this interesting point is never developed in favour of shallow Harlequin romance sappiness.

I just didn't given a damn about anyone in this movie. Keira Knightley, despite her striking physical beauty, remains just as aloof and unlikeable here as in her incarnations of Elizabeth Swan and Elizabeth Bennett. And I expected I would identify more with McAvoy's character, as many if not most men hugely fear being misunderstood in relationships and thus vulnerable to vexatious allegations of sexual impropriety. But I found so little endearing in him--he by no means impressed me as the quintessential romantic hero who I wanted to get the girl despite ostensibly insurmountable obstacles.

The Vanessa-Redgrave-as-Briony revelation at the end of the film was a mildly entertaining "twist", but still the fact that Robbie and Cecilia were casualties of the war before they could be reunited did not move me much at all.

In short, it ain't Casablanca. The star-crossed-lovers-in-wartime thing has been done before Atonement. And it has been done better.

Despite the invective of another review, I am very attentive to film music and I really liked the score. The incorporation of an old typewriter as a percussion instrument at points was striking and original and I really enjoyed it.

The film really deserves a 6 (mildly entertaining and not a complete waste of time), but I give it a 1 in my attempts to offset the abundance of pathetically misguided reviews that are claiming to find cinematic genius here.
68 out of 120 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Talk about overrated
ewan-5922 February 2008
With so many people raving about how incredible this film was I went to see it with high expectations. I wish I had not bothered. To call it over rated would be an understatement.

To start with why are we so obsessed with class war in this country. NOT every single person from the aristocracy was a bigoted upper class twit. We won two World War with a military led by people from those classes so they could not all have been bad. (And NO they were not all poetry writing closet homosexuals either - see most First World War offerings). Yes there were some snotty idiots but to brand everyone as such would be like labelling every working class person as a foul mouthed yob/football hooligan. This whole subject is getting so utterly boring.

From a historical perspective 'Atonement' leaves a lot to be desired. About halfway through the film we see a Lancaster fly overhead. The prototype of this aircraft did not fly until 1941, NOT the mid 1930s.

Next we move to Dunkirk, where they got the date wrong. Dunkirk was 1940. At one point during the retreat to Dunkirk James McAvoy and some fellow soldiers are seen spending the night in an abandoned building. (This is over a lit candle on a dry wooden floor covered with combustible material......nice one guys). These men are alarmed by the arrival of some French civilians bringing food as they initially thought they were Germans. If James McAvoy and friends were that worried about Germans why did they not post a sentry and blanket out the windows??? As a soldier let alone an infantryman one of the first things you are taught in training is the importance of posting sentries and basic noise and light discipline!!!

The scenes of Dunkirk beach were for me the final straw. Whoever designed the set not only tried to cram far too much in, but has clearly never served in the armed forces. Amongst the biggest howlers were the anti aircraft guns that were too close together with no attempt made to protect them or their crews. This is at a time when the Dunkirk beaches were being hammered daily by German aircraft, especially the dreaded Stuka dive bomber. Secondly the soldier siting the Vickers machine gun has not only made no attempt to conceal his position, (why not use one of the buildings) but if he had ever fired the weapon from that position he would have only hit his own men.

Finally, where on earth did the black guy come from? People may argue symbolism, (which can go quite well with accuracy) but in reality there were no British African Regiments at Dunkirk. The Kings African Rifles, the Nigeria Regiment and other African units did fight with distinction in WWII but this was later on and in Africa the Middle East and Burma NOT Dunkirk in 1940.

If there was an award for most overrated film of the year 'Atonement' would be a clear winner. If you like historically inaccurate drippy yarns about injustice and class war you will love it. If you do know something about history or have served in the military you will be biting a large hole in your lip. How this film won the BAFTA's best film of the year over other films such as 'The Lives of Others' is a mystery.
112 out of 207 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
How come everyone stopped looking for the little boys except Robbie?
morgantam21 January 2010
Unreasonable! This movie lost me when the entire dinner party went out to look for the two little boys and all but one (Robbie) continued the search after their sister Lola was found and allegedly assaulted. Come on people, sure, Lola was in bad shape and needed help, but a houseful of people standing around asking a 13-year-old what she saw? Shouldn't their priority be to find the missing boys first? They can ask all the questions and point the fingers later. Cannot believe this scene. It's one of the earlier death knells for this otherwise ho-hum movie. The Awards people must have watched a different movie than the one I rented. Thumbs WAY down.
55 out of 96 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Most Overrated Film Of The Last Decade.
RockStrongo6 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I cannot adequately sum up into words the disappointment I felt after watching this film.

England 1935, and 13 year old Briony Tallis thinks there's something funny going on between her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightly) and their strapping gardener Robbie (James McAvoy). She totally misinterprets several events that take place over the course of a day, and as a result Robbie is sent to prison. Five years later, With Britain at war, Robbie is in the army fighting at Dunkirk. Will he return to Cecelia? Will Briony put things right? Unfortunately, at this point I was past caring.

So what was wrong? For a start, the performances were awful - the idea seems to have been 'why act when you can overact?'. The direction was slow and ponderous. The characters were vacuous and two-dimensional.

I counted half-a-dozen or so scenes that could (and should) have been left on the cutting room floor, they seemed to have no point at all, weren't explained properly, nor did they lead anywhere. I suspect they were only left in to bring the film up to a two-hour running time

Then there were the continuity errors: A Lancaster bomber flying in 1935, six years before they were invented; Robbie losing his boots in one scene, only to be wearing them again in the next; Briony seeing Robbie and Cecilia through the open library door when they clearly closed it behind them when they went in; Briony saying that these events happened when she was 10 or 11, then later in the film saying they happened when she was 13; Robbie's letters, appearing and disappearing on his desk depending on the camera angle...And how deep was the water supposed to be in that garden fountain?????

Worst of all though, was the clumsy and contrived way the 'misunderstandings' were set up. I'm no dramatist, but I could see every one of them coming a mile off.

I'm sure the film-makers would say their film was poetic in its nature, not meant to be taken literally, but that is no excuse; Ed Wood and David Winters said the same about their movies. It also makes no sense for Briony to state at the end that she was telling 'whole truth, without embellishment' when the story is filled with embellishment from the very first scene.

On a personal note, I'd like to hear Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy do a riff on this movie. Perhaps I'll e-mail them....
93 out of 170 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Much Ado About Nothing
kim-105226 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Bottom line about this movie, who cares? None of the characters are particularly sympathetic & since when does a couple who have a 60 second fling in the library, then don't see each other for 4 more years qualify as a "great love story"? Oh, please.....The whole war footage was utterly confusing, and especially in the part of the cockney soldier, which is oddly funny. (Was that on purpose? If so, how very strange, if not, how very unfortunate). The ending, which just sort of suddenly lurches forward into present day, (lord, why did that poor Briony NEVER change her hairstyle?) is a huge bait & switch which cannot help but make you think that you've wasted two hours, essentially by being lied to. How on earth this film was nominated for so many Academy Awards, I do not know. The nicest thing I can say about this movie is that Ms. Knightly's green dress was truly stunning. Seriously, that's it..........
79 out of 143 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I will tell you exactly why this movie is painfully bad...
Fred-S25 April 2008
I will not say that this is a really bad movie because a lot of people think it is really good and, unlike some others, I am not arrogant enough to think that my taste should set the standard for everyone else. There is no accounting for taste, even bad taste.

However, I thought it was a painfully bad movie and I will tell you very specifically why.

First, some specific things that prevented a knowledgeable viewer from sympathizing with the characters.

1. In the promo they say that a young girl sees something she doesn't understand and mistakenly tells a story that that has tragic consequences. That entire sentence isn't a quote, but "something she doesn't understand" is. In fact, she sees several things and she does understand enough to know what is going on. The specific event that tops off the sequence of events that ruin lives is one she knowingly lies about whether or not she fully understands it, and she clearly has set out to destroy a man's life (apparently motivated by jealousy). Even before the "main event," she says that he should be put away where he can hurt no one.

2. It is said in one of the promo trailers (no spoiler here) that Robbie had the choice between prison and going to war. Well, this was a part of WWII that most Americans don't know about because America hadn't entered it at that time, but all able-bodied men in the UK went to war.

3. The scene in the library was absurd. To disrespect one's family by doing something like that in a library with a horde of people wandering around would have been the height of disrespect and stupidity.

4. In the 1930's in Britain (or America for that matter), if a father caught his daughter engaged in (or learned of) the acts that actually did occur the boy would find going to prison to be one of the nicer things that might happen to him.

Now, about the structure of the movie:

The story has a beginning and an end. Most of the story should have taken place in a middle that does not exist in the movie. There are events with major consequences for all involved: the girl (Briony), Cecelia, Robbie, the Tallis, Quincy, and Turner families, as well as others. These events take place in the beginning of the story: And the consequences? We learn nothing of what happened except a little of Briony, that Robbie chose war, and that Cecelia stayed around, possibly waiting for Robbie – or possibly not, as we learn near the end of the film. The middle of the story is related in a few sentences.

The end of the film is supposed to show the "atonement". Presumably, this is Briony's atonement for ruining a few lives – we don't know how many because that would have occurred in the middle of the story. Atonement is "satisfaction given for wrongdoing." Unless one includes satisfaction obtained by the wrongdoer, which I don't think counts, there is no atonement.

So, what does one have? Some very unlikable characters, some of whom have bad things happen to them because of bad things done by other unlikable characters. The few likable characters disappear during the non-existent middle of the story.

If you choose to see this movie you may very well find something to like, but I don't think it will be anything that is a part of the story.
90 out of 167 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Patchy and probably underdeveloped
I went to see this film last night. I had high expectations because it has received an extremely high vote average on the IMDb. Coupled to that I have read a couple of Ian McEwan novels, The Cement Garden, and The Comfort of Strangers. Both novels are exquisite, and McEwan is a total master of fiction. The Comfort of Strangers was a bruising read and The Cement Garden was incredibly trenchant and reminded me of my own upbringing.

So I had some doubts about whether his intensity could be brought to screen (although the film of Cement Garden is rather good). I did actually groan when I saw in the first credits that the film was a Working Title production, because although I know they have a good reputation, generally speaking I hate their stuff. Far too glossy and bland.

The first shot was very promising, a dolls house trompe a l'oeil and exquisitely arranged toys. The Camera pans from the house to the troupe of toy soldiers and plastic bestiary, which taper towards a desk where we see the precocious stripling Briony typing out the last words of her first play. The uncanny organisation of the toys is a powerful indication of the girl's state of mind: both fanciful and controlling. A coup de maitre worthy of McEwan. Then there is a soundtrack where the main instrument is a typewriter. A very bold strategem indeed as in my opinion cinema needs to distance itself from literature, but entirely successful.

From there the level of directorial virtuosity declines rather rapidly, we see that a vat of money is used to substitute for creativity, and the audience is meant to be wowed by painstaking and yet quite beside-the-point recreations of scenes from the war. We've had all this with Gangs of New York, Saving Private Ryan, and other tepid 'masterpieces' ad infinitum.

Having said that there is actually a continuous shot of Dunkirk in this film which lasts five minutes that I know will have even the most cynical of film watchers drooling. It is as a character says like a scene from the Bible, I have seen a similar looking Breughel print.

However the film is meant to be a love story, and by God, it does not convince me as one. The love between Cecilia and Robbie is not properly established, and most of the other characters are cardboard cut-outs. I felt the film could have been a lot longer to enable some character development. The only fully fledged character is Briony. How I long for the days of Billy Wilder who established the journalistic character of Chuck Tatum in Ace in the Hole simply by having him strike a match on a typewriter in a very practised manner.

Some of the scenes in France during the fighting I am sure would work better in the novel, in the film they are really a bit devoid of context. Finally the end of the film is a conceit that really failed to impress me, and I won't give it away but the atonement strikes me as very hollow.

I think this movie tries very hard to be an epic after the fashion of The English Patient, unfortunately it becomes rather tired and generic. Having said that the source material is of such a quality and the amount of money spent seemingly so vast that the film is very enjoyable. But nowhere near a masterpiece.
89 out of 169 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed