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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. Based on the British romance novel by Ian McEwan.
OSCAR winner for Best achievement in music
OSCAR NOMINEES for Best Supporting Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction
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From the start I knew Atonement wasnít going to be your conventional war time romantic drama. There was something about the opening sequence, and the use of (As lame as it sounds) the typewriter SF effect incorporated into the music, that gave me a sense that I was about to watch one of the best films in recent years, and by the end I almost had.
The first half of Atonement is some of the best storytelling I have seen for many years, although the premise can be written in under one line it unravels at a nice tantalising pace to keep you interested.
Through a series of misunderstandings Robbie Turner is accused of a crime he did not commit. Shown via two points of view, one in which 13 year old Briony Tallis sees things she doesnít understand, and two, what really happens, sets up the story nicely. I was instantly hooked.
Certain aspects werenít played out enough for my liking. The main one being Briony Tallisís love for Robbie, which becomes apparent after we are introduced to her at 18. It should have asked the question, was it misunderstanding or plain jealousy in more detail. Also there wasnít enough depth to the narrative in the second half to keep me as gripped as the first. Actual atonement come into play a little too late and a film that should have gently sailed to a first-class ending, stumbled.
Shaky second half aside Atonement was still something special to watch. Director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice) brought wartime France to life with a five minute one take shot (Reminiscent of Goodfellas) of Dunkirk beech that was both stunning and chaotic. Cinematography was on par with House of Flying Daggers and the 1930ís setting looked far more costly than the budget would have allowed.
The Great production is accompanied by even greater acting. Briony is played by three people, for which Saoirse Ronan gives the best performance as the troubled 13 year old. James McAvoy plays the gentle Robbie with easy and Keira Knightley, who was born to play snobbish characters, does a good job of making me hate and feel sorry for her. In short all three justify their BAFTA and Oscar nominations, and all support, from the irritating Quincey twins to the creepy Paul Marshall complement the leads nicely.
Thinking this would be on par with films like Gladiator and Lord of the Rings, I was a little disappointed as Atonement wasnít the epic I was hoping for. Itís still a very good piece of film making and has done British cinema a world of good. But in my eyes I canít call it a classic.