Movie Review – Atonement
Category : Movie Review
Director: Joe Wright
I watched the film when it was released, read the book because I wanted more, reread the book years later, and then rewatched the film. The story is great each time and I wouldn’t hesitate to return to it again and again over the coming years. The novel is a great read, I highly recommend it, and the movie does it justice in every way. I think, because the book relied so heavily on words, the movie was able to turn that into mood and not have to cram a ton of action into 120 minutes. Joe Wright took the plot, gave us each feeling individually, and did the original content justice. He’s now a semi-household name in the biz, and so are many members of his cast, but who knows what would have happened had they got it all wrong here. Spoiler; they didn’t, each one held their own, and the team adapted a wonderful book into a spectacular film, one that I thoroughly enjoy.
The story is presented in three acts, with a postscript to tie up the details. All are excellent, but it’s the first part that sets the stage and the tone, that really feeds us the meat. The Tallis family live on a beautiful estate in England without a care in the world. Or at least, they did, before Hitler and his talk of war, but even that is somewhere in the near future, not in the present, which is a hot summer in the country. Father is at work in the city, Mother is resting with one of her migraines, Leon, the eldest brother, is on his way home, Cecilia, the sister, is back from school, and Briony, the baby, is writing a play for the occasion. Three cousins are come to stay pending their parents’ divorce, so the house is quite crowded and chaotic. Briony happens upon three moments between Cecelia and Robbie, a young man whose mother is a servant, that will change the course of all their lives: an exchange by the fountain, a passed note, and a meeting in the library. Briony’s childish assumptions surrounding these events will lead her to accuse Robbie of a crime later in the evening, sending all of their futures into a downward spiral that there is absolutely no stopping.
Atonement was nominated for seven Oscars, winning Best Original Score, and they were all deserved. It’s an epic romance set somehow on a grand scale and also on a very small one, with tiny moments that defined larger ones, each weaving in and out with a precision that takes real talent. Wright is an excellent director, and the best decision he made was to trust the story, to keep to the book, to not fix what wasn’t broken. And then there’s his cast: McAvoy with a solid performance, Knightley who’s so emotional, Ronan in an early role. You’ll also notice Juno Temple and Benedict Cumberbatch as small but important characters, so there were stars scattered all over this film. The music is incredible, composer Dario Marianelli doing an incredible job with the score, really setting the tone for the action and for the deep sadness behind the true history of the moment. This film is a period piece, a romance, a war tale, and a fictional apology letter, something so complicated that it takes your breath away, while also being so magical that you can’t help but fall in love.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆