Joe Wright directs this adaptation of the novel by Ian McEwan starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) sees her older sister Cecilia (Knightley) strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching Cecilia is their housekeeper's son Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), a childhood friend who, along with Briony's sister, has recently graduated from Cambridge. By the end of that day the lives of all three have been changed forever. Robbie and Cecilia have crossed a boundary they had never before dared to approach and have become victims of the younger girl's scheming imagination - and Briony has committed a dreadful crime, the guilt for which will colour her entire life. Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave co-star as Briony as she grows older.
Average Rating for Atonement  - 3 out of 5
(based on 2 user reviews)
Atonement Charlie Whately-Smith
Adapting any novel for the screen is a dangerous game. Concerns about upsetting the purists raring to hate it by moving too far from the source are juggled with questions about the need for the move from page to screen; why is necessary? What will the director bring to the story?
So a gutsy move it was from Joe Wright to take on as his second project Ian McEwan"s Booker Prize winning Atonement, held as one of the great pieces of fiction in recent years. Fortunately, it paid off, since this is a film which proves that life can be breathed into even the best books.
The film opens on a stifling July day in 1935. Beneath the lazy activities of the upper-class household lie stewing undercurrents and a sense of impending disaster. Thirteen-year-old Briony, a playwright with a vivid imagination paints family friend Robbie (James McAvoy) as a "sexual monster" after misunderstanding his camera-shuddering embrace with her sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley). By manipulating the points of view through which events are seen, Wright illustrates effectively the ease and danger of misinterpretation.
Several years later, they are all still paying for the mistake made that night. Released from prison into the army, Robbie is making his way to Dunkirk amid chaos. It is telling of the strength of McAvoy"s performance that at one point, a simple exhalation of breath quietly communicates such despair and longing. He shows us a man brought to his very knees by what he has seen - not just in France - as he trudges on toward Cecilia. Images of war, at times heartbreaking (and including an incredible four minute tracking shot), are offset with dramatic scenes of the sisters on the home front.
The final scene powerfully evokes questions about imagination, penance and regret. Is it possible to make amends for our wrongdoings? One thing is certain, Joe Wright will not need to beg forgiveness from Ian McEwan, for he has richly imitated and expanded on the style of a layered novel whilst coaxing some unforgettable performances.
Cecilia (Keira Knightley) suddenly finds herself in a secret affair with Robbie, the housekeepers son (James McAvoy). The vivid imagination of a young Briony results in Robbie being accused of being a sex monster and subsequently locked up. The film cleverly shows how inoccuous events appear frightening and perverse through the eyes of a child. Robbie only escapes from prison by signing up as a private in the army. At this point the film starts to loose its way. Briony realises what she has done, but exactly how she comes to this realisation is not very clear. The imagery is weak and some of the 'punch' is lost as the film drifts to a rather clumbsy conclusion with Briony being interviewed as an old lady.
A good start but weak finish.
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