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Awesome: 17.98%
Worth A Look37.08%
Just Average: 26.97%
Pretty Crappy: 10.11%
Sucks: 7.87%

10 reviews, 29 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"See you next Tuesday."
3 stars

A bizarre coincidence: Two of the year-end award-chasing films ó 'The Kite Runner' and now 'Atonement' ó are epics of shame.

They are based on novels written in separate years, set in different countries, yet they both center on an act of child rape and how a young protagonist responds to the act and, in adulthood, strains to redeem disastrous childhood lies. Atonement at least does not, unlike The Kite Runner, feature a Hollywood showdown based on a laughable coincidence; it ends on a dramatically ambiguous note, showing us the happy ending we want right after refuting it. Still, itís a handsomely assembled bore, with far too much noble English repression.

Briony (Saiorse Ronan), an unpleasant little 13-year-old fabulist, spots her older sister Cecelia (Keira Knightley) jumping into a fountain and emerging with her underthings clinging, while the housekeeperís son Robbie (James McAvoy) stands nearby. An odd occurrence from Brionyís point of view, though her assumption of naughtiness between the two isnít entirely unfounded ó they just havenít gotten around to consummating their guarded mutual attraction yet. Still, the episode is on Brionyís mind when her cousin Lola is assaulted by a man Briony takes to be Robbie. He is arrested, and later given a choice between jail and the Army. Robbie chooses a soldierís uniform over a prisonerís, but itís bad timing: England has entered World War II, and when we see Robbie again itís during the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Joe Wright, who previously directed Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice, gives us a lengthy tracking shot of the chaos on the Dunkirk beaches. Itís full of incident, and it mustíve been a nightmare to organize and shoot, but it goes on just long enough to start selling its Oscar-vamping epicness. (A similar sequence in Alan Parkerís Pink Floyd: The Wall got in and out in half the time, with judiciously chosen images of pain and death.) The sisters Cecelia and Briony have both gone into nursing, though Briony (played in late teens by Romola Garai) is driven by an overwhelming desire to make up for what she did to Cecelia and Robbie. Thereís the suggestion that part of her wanted Robbie banished because she herself had a schoolgirl crush on him.

Atonement builds itself on a string of stupid actions, such as Robbieís typing a raunchy note to Cecelia to amuse himself, then handwriting a more genteel note, but accidentally delivering the wrong one to Briony, who of course opens it. Itís the only epic I can think of that blossoms out of the notorious slang word for female genitalia (which we see typed out thunderously across the screen). Reduced that way, it sounds kind of silly, and it is kind of silly. Had Robbie never typed those three consonants and a vowel, he (and we) would never have endured the horrors of Dunkirk. Thatís just about the last word in English repression.

If we donít buy into the conflict, we canít buy into what the actors are doing ó one scene in particular, a reunion between Briony and the two lovers, is played more falsely than it should be, even if the sceneís falseness is intentional. Daniel Mays comes through as Robbieís no-nonsense Army companion, and Vanessa Redgrave turns up at the end as the elderly Briony, her voice and ironic smile carrying far more weight than anything else in the film. Atonement may be worth the sit just to hear Redgrave pronouncing ďvascular dementiaĒ ó amused by the irony of a disease that will rob her of her words.

You can have the show-offy tracking shot and the self-conscious romantic-epic touches (Cecelia on a bus with Robbie chasing after her is particularly shabby) ó Iíd rather watch two hours of Vanessa Redgrave telling this story, her inflections bringing it to life where Joe Wright fails.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15981&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/16/07 22:42:49
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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
11/03/09 me gorgeous, almost as great as the book 5 stars
8/01/09 Samantha Pruitt very sad and depressing, but the acting is good and it looks great. 4 stars
4/21/09 Jean W. I felt so alone hating this movie. Fuss and pretension. No substance. 2 stars
3/23/09 Anonymous. one of my favorite movies :] 5 stars
1/03/09 Hello i thought this film was beautiful and perfect. =] 5 stars
12/14/08 Pamela White surreal ending but film drama lacking 3 stars
10/16/08 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
8/16/08 Clackity Clack An example of how to take a good story and ruin it. 1 stars
7/26/08 Caloline Erm ... Lola did not see and know who attacked her. This was pretty clear. 5 stars
6/14/08 Melissa Stinchcomb I expected this movie to be better than it was. It jumped around too much.Ended badly. 3 stars
6/11/08 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
3/31/08 Butt waaaay overrated. Highly contrived schoolboy script. Watch Casablanca instead. 2 stars
3/21/08 Rollie It's rare when a chamber drama can function this well as an art-house picture. Great movie 5 stars
2/13/08 Ming Great love story...I enjoy watching it...Too bad its a sad ending 5 stars
2/12/08 Xavier Roca-Ferrer Utter rubbish! 1 stars
2/10/08 styace very shallow character studies . not enough depth to make me feel how i should have . 1 stars
2/01/08 earthangel Really lousy movie. What a waste! I agree with Butterfly about Eat Keira Eat 1 stars
1/30/08 Alistair Heartbreakingly beautiful and hauting -it grows in impact for days after 5 stars
1/21/08 diane livingston painfully boring, pointless 1 stars
1/20/08 Julie Movie was terrible. First time I was tempted to walk out of a movie before the end. 1 stars
1/19/08 maryjane good but not the best. still made me cry though 4 stars
1/19/08 orpy Made me want to read the book 3 stars
1/17/08 Buttley I liked it, it wasn't Best Picture good but I can see why they'd nominate it. Eat Keira Eat 4 stars
12/26/07 jeanne You soul-less pigs - Stick to "Knocked Up" THIS is a brilliant film, soaring and wrenching. 5 stars
12/09/07 Ole Man Bourbon Overrated and forgettable. Story is contrived and often silly. Good acting. 2 stars
12/08/07 Keystra Williams OVERRRATED beyond belief! 1 stars
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  07-Dec-2007 (R)
  DVD: 18-Mar-2008



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