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."
Joe Wright
Saoirse RonanAilidh MackayBrenda Blethyn
English [CC]
Audio languages
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4.5 out of 5 stars

2619 global ratings

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Drew OdomReviewed in the United States on September 10, 2018
2.0 out of 5 stars
A 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.
81 people found this helpful
Kindle Good CustomerReviewed in the United States on February 28, 2021
2.0 out of 5 stars
Bad 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.
28 people found this helpful
QuinnReviewed in the United States on April 28, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
Thank the Forefathers for "Innocent until proven guilty" eh? And forsake AP Lit;pursue STEM instead!
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Please excuse this essay if you aren’t STEM-oriented, or if you aren’t oriented toward fact and logic over emotion and whim. Plus, nothing but spoylers!

The novel/film is said to be a romance… but I see it isn’t love at all. It is (or starts out as, which is still toxic in my book, ) clearly lust. And Robbie and Cee are clearly mentally disturbed. They needed HELP. Not romance. They needed therapists! We can’t keep normalizing mentally disturbed people thoughtlessly submitting to their animalistic instinctive imperative to just furni-kate everything that moves… Cuz that’s what’s happening, each generation worse than the last…

Robbie’s obviously messed up. But Cee is also twisted for being a horrendous judge of character. If I was she, I’da told him that he needs help. Not freegin lure him into a gaww-dam library to have smutty promiscuous schmekx! Wdf?!

The plot wants us to be gullible enough to believe Robbie never MEANT to send the dirty letter. Really? He didn’t bother to check his table to realize the clean letter was still sitting right there…? Or just take a final look at the paper you’re holding before you place it inside the envelope? Besides, a non-dumb person woulda burned/shredded the letter immediately after laughing at the print job. What a poorly written character, all for the sake of a sad plot.

Some say Brionny thought that Robbie was raping Cecilia. Didn't look that way to me. If she RLY thought that, and cared about her sister, then Brionny woulda screamed or attacked Robbie or tried to pull Cee away. Instead she just flees like a scared little innocent girl who just witnessed interco-urse for the first time and doesn't know how she feels about the act. I’m just saying the plot writing’s kinda bad.

I recall that upon checking on the victimized Lola, Brionny first asked Lola, "It was Robbie, wasn't it?" Brionny was practically pleading Lola for validation for Brionny's contempt against Robbie. When Lola showed uncertainty and could not outright provide the validation Brionny wanted, Brionny decided to shoehorn the narrative into being dead-on Robbie. Just cuz she WANTED to believe it was Robbie. She lied TO HERSELF first. Which led to her thinking she was telling the truth to the police, but it's still a lie, a lie that she simply convinced herself first. She KNEW full well it was night, it was dark and unclear, and she KNEW full well she NEVER clearly saw a distinct, bright, male face, front-and-center.

Anyway, thank the forefathers for "innocent until proven guilty", eh? England's pre-WWII justice system was all shidouttawhack: guilty until proven still guilty, lmao. In the US, Robbie's alibi would've been worth something, and the police couldn't arrest him based on the whimsical fancy of a 13yo or two, like Cee warned. Cee’s alibi already proves that Cee wasn’t attacked by Robbie; it was consensual. And then the people used the letter as evidence… what the heo was that, amirite? So what, was everyone there operating under the same rule that “only one man on the planet could possibly be a pervert”? Could there not be… ionno… TWO perverts?? Maybe while Charles Xavier is lusting Elizabeth Swann… Dr. Strange, or even just a Dr. Strange look-alike, could be perving on Lollacup? NO?? Anyway, so yeah. Little girl says He did; young man says He didn’t. The game is still up. Interrogate everyone privately no matter what. A REAL truth is bound to slip. No one’s proven guilty until you investigate thoroughly.

Something is really OFF about how 17yo Brionny just readily accepts the random memory insertion of Dr Strange’s face onto the vague rapist’s silhouette. Furthermore, between 13 and 17 years old, she had NO clue on the TRUE rapist... then at 17yo, the "memory" just HAPPENS to pop into her head?! THAT is a very dangerous act of the mind. It still COULD've been another guy who looked like Dr Strange in the dark from a blurry distance. I'm not saying she did the mental insertion purposefully; I'm saying she's STILL an unreliable witness through and through. The 80yo woman body still houses a pre-13yo mind...

Can’t believe the interview called her novel an autobiography. As soon she revealed that the novel halfway through switches to telling events that never actually happened, then the interviewer shoulda realized that the entire book can only be considered a fiction, not a non-fiction. And if it's fiction, it AIN'T autobiography. Non-fiction requires 100% truth, yo! He shoulda just smoked her out big time then and there lmao.

I remember my AP Lit teacher asking, “CAN she be forgiven?” I think she left that for us to decide. Well, I’d say: Tchyeah, SOMEONE might forgive her. But Charles Xavier and Elizabeth Swann have every right to NEVER forgive her. NO ONE else has to forgive her either. But! For me personally, it’s not about 100% about whether to forgive the 13yo girl. Far from it. Even if the title tells us to focus on that topic. Cuz I’m still blaming the whack justice system. But anyway, my short answer is No.
10 people found this helpful
Made In The USA Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Atonement - 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.
This movie is a Tragedy that includes a scene that Might be Disturbing to some viewers. The movie is Not a Romance.
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.
3 stars overall for Atonement movie on widescreen DVD.
Atonement conveys the Death, Horror, and Defeat of the Soldiers on Dunkirk . . . . . so much Better than the movie Dunkirk did.
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.
11 people found this helpful
Daniel ThomasReviewed in the United States on October 7, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
"Yes. I saw him. I saw him with my own eyes."
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Like in The Children's Hour, Atonement deals with how a child's lie(s) can destroy people's lives.

Unlike The Children's Hour, Atonement isn't even a halfway decent movie. It is hideously pretentious drivel.

What's with the repeated shots of someone using a lighter?
What's with the lengthy scene of soldiers walking around Dunkirk?
What's with the hideously wrong portrayal of the Dunkirk evacuation?

The plot is about an author who is trying to make up for the wrongs she did earlier in life before she herself dies. I don't think her novel comes close to doing that.

Like Adaptation and The Fisher King, Atonement is a vastly overrated movie.
5 people found this helpful
Rita CampbellReviewed in the United States on March 5, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Lies 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.
28 people found this helpful
Matthew D'SouzaReviewed in the United States on January 19, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
The 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.
10 people found this helpful
cyrusReviewed in the United States on October 24, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
very much overrated
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Yes, the Dunkirk sequence is remarkable, but how is that necessary for a rather flimsy story about a young girl who is so stupid and self-centered that she destroys the lives of her sister and her lover. The most doubtful and pretentious aspect of the story is that this stupid girl, as an adult, has become a novelist who is dying and for her last novel finally tells the truth about her sister and lover--that he did not rape the young cousin. Again, remarkable self-centeredness as this dreadful older woman asks for forgiveness but, in the process, makes herself even more obnoxious by conniving some stupid episode in the novel where the two lovers live, reunite, and live "happily ever after." As if this dreadful person could ever receive forgiveness--i.e., atonement (which will never happen no matter how many times this ignorant woman apologizes). And yet the director (being suckered in by a clever but bad novel) allows it. All rather unseemly and unethical. One wonders how a director so good could be interested in or support this kind of insincere claptrap.

This film (and novel) illustrates the idiotic thesis of postmodernist works that claim what one says, is. Well, reality bites, and it is discouraging that a director and actors allow themselves to be bamboozled by the impossible dishonesty of this postmodernist nonsense. So much possibility wasted.
3 people found this helpful
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