Director: Joe Wright
Cast: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, Brenda Blethyn
Plot: Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a 13-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's lover of a crime he did not commit.
Genre: Drama / Mystery / Romance
Awards: Won 1 Oscar - Best Original Score. Nom. for 6 Oscars - Best Picture, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design. Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice Film Festival).
Rating: M18 for disturbing war images, language and some sexuality.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
Nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, Atonement is the second major literary adaptation of a novel by director Joe Wright after Pride and Prejudice (2005).
In my opinion, Atonement is an overrated British period romance drama. Just because it looks great, works like a Shakespearean play, and boasts a strong, talented main cast does not, by default, imply that the film is Oscar-worthy. While it deserves nominations in the technical categories, and is generally an impressive picture, Atonement is not as consistent as some of 2007's best films.
Atonement is a motion picture of two halves. The first hour is thoroughly enjoyable; the story centers around three characters - Briony, Cecilia, Robbie - whose portrayals by Saoirse Ronan, Keira Knightley, James McAvoy respectively are excellent.
The screenplay is written in such a way that it incorporates the flashback technique, which is vital for the film because certain scenes are seen from differing points of view and maturity level, and are such interpreted in an entirely different context.
Furthermore, through the use of the sound of a typewriter, Oscar-winning composer Dario Marianelli manages effectively to bring about sudden changes in pacing by varying the - 'tuck, tuck-tuck, tuck-tuck-tuck' - rhythm along with the editing. All these elements make the first half a seductively thrilling one.
Unfortunately, the second hour is a far cry from the first. We witness a dramatic drop in quality of acting (mainly the fault of the supporting cast), a less-tightly structured storyline, and a director unsure of the film's final objectives.
Atonement starts its decline after Romola Garai takes over young Ronan for the role of Briony. In fact, the role of Briony is very crucial to the film; to ask three different actresses (especially when the final two's acting capabilities are not up to the task) to take such a demanding role is suicidal.
If not for Knightley and McAvoy, great visuals and art direction, Atonement would have fared worse than Michael Clayton (2007), which I feel is the year's most ridiculous Best Picture nominee.
GRADE: B- (7/10 or 3 stars)
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