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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Atonement - review

Atonement (15)

Dir. Joe Wright

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

Remember when you were young, when you thought that you knew it all… but actually hadn’t a clue? Sometimes a lack of life experience can lead one to make wild jumps to very wrong conclusions… with serious consequences.
This is the core dynamic of Atonement, a tale of heavyweight heartbreak and life long repercussions stemming from the misled mind of 13 year-old Briony (Saoirse Ronan). It is her actions as a child that tear apart the blossoming relationship between her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and Robbie (James McAvoy) and lead to a lifetime of regret as she tries to atone for what she has done.
Atonement is based on the book by Ian McEwan which director Joe ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Wright has brought vividly to the screen. The cinematography is just stunning, with scene after scene vying to burn itself into your memory – be it the lavish English country house or the haunting battle ravished beaches of France.
From the moment it all begins, there is a fantastic balance between the seemingly idyllic upper class sanctuary of Cecilla’s family home and a growing sense of unease, which is built up both by the threat of the coming war and the obvious sexual tension swirling amongst the assembled characters.
Everything explodes on one fateful night; an initially comic-seeming wrong note being delivered scene, by young Briony (who reads it and later acts on the fanciful ideas it has generated in her mind), leads to a miscarriage of justice that cannot be undone.
The cast are universally superb and Knightley gives her best performance to date as the stunning Cecilla, whose breathtaking emergence from a fountain at one point is quite possibly the scene of the year for males the world over… McAvoy is excellent too - both as handsome love stuck housekeeper’s son, then as the battle beaten everyman soldier trying against the odds to return to his love through the hell of the Dunkirk retreat. The lingering tracking shot across the beaches at Dunkirk to the strains of ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ is as vivid a portrait of hell as you’ll ever need and must have taken an astonishing amount of coordination. The words of the much loved hymn resonate through the films plot:
‘Breathe through the heats of our desire, thy coolness and thy balm; let sense be dumb, let flesh retire’… By the end of the film you’ll have the sense that some wrongs simply cannot be adequately atoned for in this life.
Atonement is a devastating, heartbreaking, absolute modern classic – highly recommended viewing.

Out of 5 you have to go with a classic 5 (vey cool, very well made - and Keira!!)...

Darkmatters ratings:

Action ööö – enough and well paced
Laughs öö – one very funny scene!
Horror ööö – some grim war stuff
Babes ööööö – Knightley is unbelievably sexy (see below)

Overall ööööö (one of this year's highlights!)

"here are six great reasons to see this film!!"

Darkmatters: H O M E
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Chrysalis said...

It sounds like an interesting movie to view. Indeed there are consequences to every action we take. I really like this site. You've done a great job here.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm glad you liked it. Keira Knightly is only marginally better than she was in the Pirates series. One of those - if only someone had spoken up soap operas - but in the upper crust venue of Britain. Lots of odd flash/forward,flash/backs. Long dragged out war sequence that did not move the story along at all.

But beautifully shot, well-acted (kudos to Vanessa Redgrave), very atmospheric. But at its core, hollow and vapid.

Anonymous said...

My main criticism concerns Chris Hamptom's screenplay. Readers of the novel claim that the romantic backs story between Robbie/Cecilia is not made known in the story.

I agree as the two seem to be very distant and indifferent as Cecilia says that the two run in different social circles when Briony asks why she doesn't talk to Robbie anymore.

Also, the Dunkirk scene didn't captivate me one bit. I think that it messes with the films pacing and is a bit too long.

All in all, Atonement is a very good film and enjoyed the country estate portion of the film the most. I gave it ***1/2 (out of 4). Good film but not great.