Atonement

 (2,245)7.82 h 2 min2007X-RayR
Nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, this stunning epic love story stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy and is hailed by critics as "a ravishing romance."
Directors
Joe Wright
Starring
Saoirse RonanAilidh MackayBrenda Blethyn
Genres
SuspenseDrama
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
English
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4.5 out of 5 stars

2245 global ratings

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  2. 13% of reviews have 4 stars
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  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars

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Top reviews from the United States

Drew OdomReviewed in the United States on September 10, 2018
2.0 out of 5 starsA Fraudulent Atonement
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I have not read the novel Atonement upon which the movie is based, though I assume it must be in many ways at least close to it since its writer associated himself with the film. At the end of the movie, Briony Tallis, in one of those dewy eyed performances which have become the signature of the later career of Vanessa Redgrave, confesses that the novel she has just published, her last because of an advancing degenerative disease that affects her brain, is a falsification of events she not only participated in but to a great extent caused when she was a young girl.

What really occurred because of a lie she told out of jealousy toward her sister and her lover Robbie ruined them both. It could be said, if said carefully, that she caused both their deaths. What is certain is that her lie denied them whatever happiness they might have had. To atone for that act–Briony herself does not seem to think it is either a sin or a crime she committed–she gives to their lives, falsely of course, a happy ending in her autobiographical book.

McEwan has expressed his opinion that Briony is not wicked and that somehow she atones for what she did by examining her own life and writing about it. I admit I do not understand that. I do not see how one atones for a terrible thing one did that has led to two people’s ruination by fictionally changing the ending of the true story. This notion seems to emerge from some post-modern nonsense about “narratives.”

The movie certainly would seem to support her and McEwan’s view of what she has done. It concludes with repeated shots of a happiness that might have been. It is the story that the movie leaves one with, Robbie and Cecilia in a cottage or on the hills by the sea with a view of the white cliffs of Dover. But, of course, that “happy ending” is fraudulent. Briony’s false accusation long ago made certain of that.

Briony would appear to have had if not a happy life, a certainly successful and relatively long one. In the best, and only truly successful part of the film, that set in 1935, Briony is, if not wicked in the absolute way that McEwan would seem to be suggesting, certainly cruel and malicious, selfish and dangerous. Her attempt to woo Robbie by pretending to drown so that he would be forced to save her is only a minor example (presuming, of course, that that event did indeed occur). It is an interesting point of view, the reverse of What Maisie Knew and The Go-Between, the innocent child witnessing guilty adults. Here, of course, the reverse is the case. It is the child who is the guilty one, the adults who, if not “innocent” exactly, act as well as they can in terrible circumstances.

But what she does, no matter who she is, is cruel, destructive, and, yes, wicked. There is an oddly postmodern twist to the notion of atonement in this movie and presumably in the book as well. One can atone for a terrible deed by writing about it and changing the end and then, perhaps, by confessing to that fabrication later, as Briony does on a TV interview show. How that is atonement in any sense that accords with the historical and theological uses of the word escapes me. If comes much too cheaply. And, most dreadfully, it is a lie, or at least lying, that continues.

The first part of the movie, showing what occurs in 1935, is by far the most successful. What follows, especially the section devoted to the British retreat from France and to Dunkirk is stagey, artificial, full of reprehensible filmic clichés, and grossly over directed. Almost everything about it looks fraudulent. and phony, big movie, big budget stagecraft.

And that is the problem with the film. It wants to offer up a lie to excuse a lie and call it atonement. I do not understand that, especially in an era when falsity, lying, has become the principle means of public discourse.

One other small point. In the first part of the movie, set in1935, Robbie is playing a record of the love duet from La Boheme between Rodolfo and Mimi. 1935. The actual recording used was recorded in 1955 by Jussi Bjoerling and Victoria de los Angeles, conducted by Thomas Beecham. I guess the director thought no one would notice. But if you are willing to distort the past even in so small a way, what might you not also accept instead of facts? That tiny falsification is an exemplification, perhaps, of the fraudulence of this film.
54 people found this helpful
Kindle Good CustomerReviewed in the United States on February 28, 2021
2.0 out of 5 starsBad Ending Spoiler Alert
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This movie is about a jealous child who successfully accuses a man of sexual assault and even when she grows up she doesn't correct this mistake. The man she accuses goes to prison and he and the woman he loves are both killed in WW2. The child, 10 or 11 at the time of her accusation, grows up to be a successful novelist and when she is dying releases her final novel in which she confesses her crime, as she says in the interview that is the structure of the movie, she was too cowardly to do it in life, but she writes a happy ending in the book and so she "gives them their happiness." I HATED THIS MOVIE although Keira Knightly who played the sister was great as usual.
8 people found this helpful
Rita CampbellReviewed in the United States on March 5, 2017
5.0 out of 5 starsLies hurt
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Meticulously done film, based on a book by a popular, and acclaimed writer. Its about the actions of a girl, a very imaginative, but naive child, and how she wrecks the lives of two would be lovers. She tries to atone, but it seems to me that some mistakes cannot be taken back. Some actions or lies can be taken that ruin the lives of innocent people forever, and there are some mistakes that can't be taken back.

I am reminded of the meddlesomeness of a woman in my recent experience who gossiped too much, and who aborted an innocent but deep and significant friendship, and hurt also another person in such a way that was entirely unnecessary. The worst of it is what she did to the friends. They no longer are friends, but two broken apart halves, and God only knows if they will ever be together again.
23 people found this helpful
Made In The USA Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2020
3.0 out of 5 starsAtonement - DVD - Review - Movie is Tragic - Not Romantic
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Movie is about 13 year old Briony Tallis and the eventual Deadly Consequences of her Lies.
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This movie is a Tragedy that includes a scene that Might be Disturbing to some viewers. The movie is Not a Romance.
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5 stars for Saoirse Ronan portrayal of 13 year old Briony Tallis. She *is* the movie.
3 stars for Romola Garai portrayal of 18 years old Briony Tallis.
3 stars for Vanessa Redgrave portrayal of elderly Briony Tallis.
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3 stars overall for Atonement movie on widescreen DVD.
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Atonement conveys the Death, Horror, and Defeat of the Soldiers on Dunkirk . . . . . so much Better than the movie Dunkirk did.
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This movie Might be Confusing to some viewers because :
(1) Scenes are Repeated from 2 Different Viewpoints.
(2) There are Two Timelines which are Reality and a Book Story.
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4 people found this helpful
Matthew D'SouzaReviewed in the United States on January 19, 2019
5.0 out of 5 starsThe Consequences of Lying
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A crushing war film with a tragic romance.

Atonement (2007) is still one of the most heartbreaking romance films ever made. It crosses the genre boundaries creating at atmosphere of a psychological drama in its character study of Briony Tallis, the trauma ridden warfare with Robbie Turner's WWII experience, the star-crossed love of Cecilia Tallis, and the period drama of the entire family all in one massive film.

Joe Wright's direction is impeccable relying on clever editing and astonishing score synchronized with the on screen movement. Wright goes from romantic views from the English countryside to a stellar long panning shot on the beaches of World War II. Whether Wright is directing a quiet day in English or a combat zone in France, everything in Atonement is stunning to behold.

Atonement captures the naivety of adolescence next to forbidden love and unrequited love. It's themes of forgiveness, kindness, morality, love, hatred, and of course atonement all feel so close to heart centered around WWII.

The performances are particularly outstanding in Atonement. Keira Knightley plays the forlorn woman who never got to marry her beloved with a tragic and upsetting realism. James McAvoy gives understandable rage and sensitive romance to Robbie Turner's ill fated life. Vanessa Redgrave lends a sincerity and subtle quiet to her elder Briony Tallis depiction that really ties Atonement together in a nice bow.

The real standout for me is still Saoirse Ronan as the childhood Briony Tallis. Her fitful and willful ignorance to the pain she causes around her is astonishing. Ronan plays Briony with a maturity and knowing well beyond her years as an actress. Her mesmerizing glares at her sister Cecilia and her longing gazes at Robbie yield much more inner turmoil that I'd realized. Saoirse carries Atonement to new heights of character study with her portrayal of this upset, spoiled child with serious problems. Her certainty of her crime and merriment at the tragedy of others is hard to watch, but makes Saoirse a great villain in Atonement. Saoirse makes Briony fascinating and intriguing. Her large blue eyes constantly reveal new flaws in Briony's character. I am glad Ronan built a strong acting career after Atonement. She deserved it!

Atonement is a depressing, yet thoughtful take on World War II combat and childhood crushes alike. It tackles more adults themes on mistakes, pain, guilt, and forgiveness that expected. It is worth watching regardless of the genre that you like most in Atonement.
8 people found this helpful
bookfilmlovrReviewed in the United States on December 27, 2014
5.0 out of 5 starsPerfection!!!
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Beautifully filmed and directed. A great story told with style. I don't think I've ever seen better acting. James McAvoy is at the top of his game; Keira Knightley is superb; Saoirse Ronan is a revelation; Benedict Cumberbatch is wonderfully sleazy in a pivotal supporting role; Brenda Blethyn, as always, is outstanding; and the incomparable Vanessa Redgrave is perfection. Watch for an amazing long tracking shot as McAvoy and his pals arrive at the beach staging camp during WWI…I can't figure out how it was done to such perfection. If feels like the shot goes on for 20 minutes with the camera moving from one meaningful event to another yet catching up with McAvoy and pals as they keep moving toward somewhere to stop and rest…absolutely beautifully done. Joe Wright IS an amazing director. I can't even imagine the coordination required to get this scene completed. If you like David Lean movies, you'll like this one. The basic story involves a young girl's crush on a servant's son that triggers childish imagination and jealousy which leads to unexpected and tragic consequences.
26 people found this helpful
TafkaswfReviewed in the United States on August 6, 2020
4.0 out of 5 starsAn Excellent Movie- Four or Five Stars
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This movie got award nominations, and I see why- it's superbly filmed, the acting is great, the scenery is outstanding, the war scenes are epic, the action is believable, the plot is easy to follow, and the movie moves along very well and keeps your interest.

In a nutshell, Atonement is about how people's lives can be changed when people - including children - lie and act badly. The lying and acting badly can arise out of a single event. While the truly bad people reason away what they did, or do nothing to repair the damage they cause, the repentant try to right the wrong they helped cause. Or at least acknowledge it. Even to alleviate it any way they can. The child wrongdoer is in the best position to do this because they can still mature, grow up, see the wrong in what they did to innocent people. A child is often in the best position to feel bad about what they did- and seek Atonement.

This movie is that Atonement- attempted over years' time by a woman who was a child when she lied and did wrong to an innocent man. Again, Atonement is an excellent - even outstanding - movie.

The only reason I gave it four stars is that the dialogue is often spoken very quickly in heavy English accents, so many viewers won't be able to understand what's being said in scenes. You get the drift, though. But five stars isn't wrong. Atonement is definitely worth a watch.
Mercy's mommyReviewed in the United States on January 24, 2020
1.0 out of 5 starsVery disappointing
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Awful movie. Terribly melodramatic with little to no plot. The WW2 scenes were completely unrealistic - the only shooting that took place was the British shooting their horses for some unknown reason. Little to no dialogue. The only redeeming part - I thought - was going to be the ending when everything would come out right. But no.
7 people found this helpful
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