“Atonement” is a Postcard of a Movie

Genres: Drama, Romance, Adaptation and War
Running Time:
2 hrs. 2 min.
Release Date:
December 7th, 2007 (limited)
MPAA Rating:
R for disturbing war images, language and some sexuality.
Focus Features, Universal Pictures International

Directed by: Joe Wright

JJ Rating: B-

Briony (Soirse Ronan) receives a letter from Robbie (James McAvoy) to give to her sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley). She reads the letter and then gives it. By her reading it she sets in motion a mistake she has to live with the rest of her life. A mistake that ruins lives, a mistake she tries to fix but cannot. Atonement.

The story is interesting and oddly funny at the beginning. When Robbie is typing on his typewriter it is funny what he wants to send. It becomes funnier because of what letter he seals and gives a way as an apology. It’s funny that he tries to tell her it was an oops but she enjoyed it more than he could have imagined. It’s not funny that the same letter screws him bitterly for years to come.

James McAvoy (who played Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia), plays a man with the last name Turner opposite Keira Knightley who has played opposite another man with the same last name in a little pirate film called Pirates of the Caribbean. That was just a fun little tidbit I found amusing. He does a great job with his character. His anger and irritation for Briony is not a secret and he is very obvious with it. Knightley has a condescending tone through some of the film and she does it well. They had really great chemistry. Ronan was perfect for her character and played well faking innocence of her actions. Romola Garai plays the older Briony and she does a fantastic job. Her facial expressions are subtle but important to convey the story and her feelings at the moment. She plays feeling sorry without being pitiful.

There are great scenes, such as the beginning sequence that shows what happens at the fountain; twice. There is the one long shot at the beach during the war. The panning of the camera showing the different things that were going on was superb. It was very amazing and beautiful. There is a lot of great cinematography.

However, this movie is far from perfect. I like the idea and most of how it was conveyed. The problem was that I believe it was like a postcard. If you like postcards and you giggle at the funny line on the bottom of the card, and then you are able to stare at said card for two hours; then you’ll most likely love this movie. It’s a beautiful movie and so are some things in nature and so are postcards. But sometimes showing only beauty does not a movie make. It was not as heartfelt as it could have been. It lacked in exciting story telling and excelled in subtlety of facial expressions, along with stressing of words and such. It sort of flooded the movie with so much artistic-ness that it failed on creating something exciting and moving.

Oh and if you don’t mind stories that ignore happy endings, then Atonement is for you. It was not for me, this is why I picked the happiest picture from the movie. I disliked that aspect as well as the need to bore me into an artistic snore. I think the acting was topnotch. The story was below sub par and, for the record; postcards do not make great movies: case in point.

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