BASED ON THE NOVEL BY
TRAILERS & CLIPS
An epic, grandiose, and immensely sad film, Atonement is an extremely well crafted, visually rich love story set during a tumultuous time of war, where two impassioned characters are forever torn apart by the selfish jealousy of another.
During a boring, hot summers day at the Tallis estate, 13 year old Briony Tallis (Saorise Ronan) witnesses her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and ambitious servant’s son Robbie (James McAvoy) in a number of compromising positions, which bedazzles her jealous, adolescent mind and –via a series of traumatic events – will find Robbie arrested as a rapist by the end of the night due to Briony’s false allegations.
With World War II upon them, Robbie is released from jail and is enlisted in the army. Before he is shipped out to France, he makes a promise to return to Cecilia, who is serving as a nurse in England. An older Briony (Romala Garai) also enlists as a nurse, hoping to atone for her past sins.
James McAvoy gives an emotionally captivating performance as a soldier trying to get back to his love. Following The Last King of Scotland, this film makes it McAvoy’s consecutive performance, and confirms that he is the best young actor working in Britain.
Keira Knightley, too, shines in her second film with director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice being their first.)The sexual chemistry between McAvoy and Knightley is palpable, and is a major factor as to why this film is so good. The viewer should find themselves yearning for Robbie and Cecilia to be together, yet events out of their hands will forever keep them apart.
This comes to the central role of Briony, who is payed by three different actresses in three different ages. At age 13, Saorise Ronan successfully portrays the character as a spoilt, deceitful and manipulative child, who draws the scorn and mistrust of the viewer. At age 18, Romala Garai (underrated) plays the role as a redemptive and detached figure, seeking penance through her work as a nurse treating wounded soldiers. Vanessa Redgrave handles the minimal elderly role with devastating effect.
The film is structured in two parts. The first is a multi-perspective, stiff upper class English drama/romance, with a strong sexual undercurrent. It showcases the best of Pau Tothill’s masterful editing, Dario Marianelli’s unique and moving score, Seamus McGarvey’s strong, vibrant cinematography, Jacqueline Durran’s spectacular costume design, and Sarah Greenwood’s impressive production design.
The second part focuses on the horror of war in its bloody aftermath, with scenes split between Robbie in France and Briony and Cecilia in England. It features a mesmerizing tracking shot set on Dunkirk (France) beach, which contains thousands of extras and small touches of CGI (no doubt) to enhance the effect.
It is the best scene of the year, and also establishes Joe Wright as an excellent director. He has drawn excellent performances from his cast (perhaps the best ensemble of the year) and has implemented the work of his crew to fine effect.
This is a spellbinding movie which firmly belongs in the top tier of this year’s best.