In the English summer of 1935, 13-year-old fledgling writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan), irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister Cecilia's (Keira Knightley) lover, Robbie (James McAvoy), a servant's son, of a crime he did not commit. The trauma follows them through World War II.
 

4
A bold and breathtaking film adaptation.

Atonement is the brilliant film adaptation from Ian McEwan’s celebrated novel of the same name. The screenplay co-written by Christopher Hampton and the film’s director Joe Wright is complex, lyrical and devastating.

Joe Wright’s direction is superb.

It is England, 1935, and one of the hottest days on record. The wealthy Tallis family are holding a weekend party on their enormous estate. After a series of misunderstandings, 13-year-old Briony, a girl with a furtive imagination, accuses her older sister’s lover of committing a terrible crime. The consequences are to be far-reaching and devastating for all.

Joe Wright’s direction is superb. He manages to encapsulate story, detail and emotion so economically. His visual eye is stunning. In one glorious 4-minute steadicam shot he captures to great effect, Dunkirk after the famous battle. It is bold and breathtaking.

The film tells the tale from different perspectives so Wright and his wonderful cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, cleverly use different light and colour for each perspective and it works a treat.

As young Briony is a budding writer, the sound of typewriter keys are used as part of the film’s sound scape. The tapping at times angry, at times apologetic, infuses scenes with the writer’s emotions.

Kiera Knightly is perfect for the role of Cecilia - the brittle, bored upper class beauty and James McAvoy is impressive as Robbie the housekeeper’s son. He never disappoints. Young Irish actress Saorise Ronan is so good as the younger Briony, a key to the success of the film.

My only criticism is that the first hour is so enthralling and tight that the latter scenes lost some of the film’s bite. This is no doubt due to the fact that Knightly, McAvoy and Ronan weren’t as involved"¦ It really is their film.

This is a film that’s sure to be well represented in the Oscars in 2008 – a wonderful piece of film making - 4 stars. Atonement is in cinemas now.

 

Watch 'Atonement'

Monday 7 December, 9:30pm on SBS World Movies (NOTE: No SBS On Demand catch-up)

M
UK, 2007
Genre: Drama, Romance, Fantasy, Mystery
Language: English
Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Keira Knightley, Brenda Blethyn, Saoirse Ronan, James McAvoy, Juno Temple

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