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Overall Rating
3.47

Awesome: 17.98%
Worth A Look37.08%
Average: 26.97%
Pretty Bad: 10.11%
Total Crap: 7.87%

10 reviews, 29 user ratings


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Atonement
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by brianorndorf

"A punch-in-the-gut tragedy, beautifully made"
5 stars

Joe Wright’s “Atonement” is a sophisticated, gorgeous screen tragedy that’s propelled by the destructive choices in life. Here, the bad decisions don’t wash away overnight, they snowball over the course of a lifetime, slowly but surely destroying anything in their path.

It’s England on the brink of WWII, and on an isolated estate young Briony (Saoirse Ronan) is nursing a crush on the maid’s son, Robbie (James McAvoy). A literate, inventive pre-teen, Briony is flattened when she discovers Robbie is attracted to her older sister, Cecilia (Keira Knightley), a stately woman who returns the affection tenfold. With her heart broken, Briony bears false witness against Robbie during an unusual sexual situation, punishing the young man to prison and soon the front lines of the war. Years later, Briony, now a nurse (played by Romola Garai), finds the burden of guilt overwhelming and seeks out the separated lovers to make amends.

In 2005’s “Pride and Prejudice,” director Wright injected an exhilarating verve back into the dead zone of British costume dramas. It was a divine affair, marked by a fascination with nature and Wright’s ability to challenge the material past its corset-tight demands. “Atonement” is an even stronger picture, with Wright demonstrating the confidence of a seasoned pro, shuffling through this twisted tale of deception and anguish with tip-top timing and shattering displays of directorial ingenuity.

Where “Pride” was a Vaseline-smeared romantic fable, “Atonement” is a dirge for love. Through the application of constantly rotating POVs and disorientating time-jumps, Wright captures the story from different angles, presenting the viewer the blossoming romance between Robbie and Cecelia; at the same time, focusing on the pursed-lip, prepubescent rage of Briony (she’s Patty McCormack with a cutthroat accent) as she fails to contain herself when the opportunity for Robbie’s banishment arrives. There’s little in the way of tenderness here; “Atonement” is directed more toward a procedural structure, detonating a dramatic bomb and counting all the casualties.

Using Kubrickian camera constructs, “Atonement” is a far more stunningly crafted film than “Pride.” It’s certainly chillier as well, playing with ideas of icy visual symmetry, nearly reaching exhilarating rock opera proportions. Since the story is simple in terms of character arcs, Wright spends enormous amounts of time dreaming up a rich visual scheme for the film, eventually stumbling into bravura one-take experimentations. One standout captures the massive evacuation of Dunkirk in a five-minute single shot that snipers the film’s energy, but nonetheless remains a searing portrait of drunken war-time insanity, sharply echoing the mental deterioration of Robbie as his hopes for safe passage from combat are quickly ripped from his hands through a crushing display of disarray and madness.

Once the elder Briony steps back into the picture, “Atonement” slides comfortably into dreamy passages, addressing her guilt and desire to mend bridges with Cecilia and Robbie. This, of course, is punctuated with a sucker punch of a conclusion that rattles the senses. It’s the dollop of heartache on top of a luxurious cinematic cake, furthering Wright’s position as one of the more exciting young filmmakers out there today.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15981&reviewer=404
originally posted: 12/07/07 18:23:31
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/03/10 cook sad yet stunning film. great acting. two thumbs up 5 stars
11/04/09 me gorgeous, almost as great as the book 5 stars
8/02/09 Samantha Pruitt very sad and depressing, but the acting is good and it looks great. 4 stars
4/22/09 Jean W. I felt so alone hating this movie. Fuss and pretension. No substance. 2 stars
3/24/09 Anonymous. one of my favorite movies :] 5 stars
1/04/09 Hello i thought this film was beautiful and perfect. =] 5 stars
12/15/08 Pamela White surreal ending but film drama lacking 3 stars
10/17/08 Simon A tad too indulgent and dramatically concocted for me. does make you sad, thats something.. 3 stars
8/19/08 Phil M. Afficiando Just wish it were less contrived and manipulative; otherwise pretty good 3 stars
8/17/08 Clackity Clack An example of how to take a good story and ruin it. 1 stars
7/27/08 Caloline Erm ... Lola did not see and know who attacked her. This was pretty clear. 5 stars
6/15/08 Melissa Stinchcomb I expected this movie to be better than it was. It jumped around too much.Ended badly. 3 stars
6/12/08 Jayson What was the fuss about? 3 stars
5/03/08 Calllie If you like historical romance this is the movie for you. Touching story and performances 5 stars
4/01/08 Butt waaaay overrated. Highly contrived schoolboy script. Watch Casablanca instead. 2 stars
3/22/08 Rollie It's rare when a chamber drama can function this well as an art-house picture. Great movie 5 stars
2/14/08 Ming Great love story...I enjoy watching it...Too bad its a sad ending 5 stars
2/13/08 Xavier Roca-Ferrer Utter rubbish! 1 stars
2/11/08 styace very shallow character studies . not enough depth to make me feel how i should have . 1 stars
2/02/08 earthangel Really lousy movie. What a waste! I agree with Butterfly about Eat Keira Eat 1 stars
1/31/08 Alistair Heartbreakingly beautiful and hauting -it grows in impact for days after 5 stars
1/22/08 diane livingston painfully boring, pointless 1 stars
1/21/08 Julie Movie was terrible. First time I was tempted to walk out of a movie before the end. 1 stars
1/20/08 maryjane good but not the best. still made me cry though 4 stars
1/20/08 orpy Made me want to read the book 3 stars
1/18/08 Buttley I liked it, it wasn't Best Picture good but I can see why they'd nominate it. Eat Keira Eat 4 stars
12/27/07 jeanne You soul-less pigs - Stick to "Knocked Up" THIS is a brilliant film, soaring and wrenching. 5 stars
12/10/07 Ole Man Bourbon Overrated and forgettable. Story is contrived and often silly. Good acting. 2 stars
12/09/07 Keystra Williams OVERRRATED beyond belief! 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  07-Dec-2007 (R)
  DVD: 18-Mar-2008

UK
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