Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. United Kingdom/France, 2007. , StudioCanal, Relativity Media, Working Title Films. Screenplay by Christopher Hampton, based on the novel Ian McEwan. Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey. Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster. Music by Dario Marianelli. Production Design by Sarah Greenwood. Costume Design by Jacqueline Durran. Film Editing by Paul Tothill. Academy Awards 2007. Golden Globe Awards 2007. Toronto International Film Festival 2007.
A classic example of a film that does not equal the sum of its parts. With strong direction, a solid cast, excellent dialogue (Christopher Hampton adapted the novel by Ian McEwan), sterling silver-beautiful cinematography, plush period details and a gorgeous musical score, Atonement aims to be its year’s English Patient but is more of a Cold Mountain. James McAvoy and Keira Knightley play upstairs-downstairs lovers whose one-night affair after years of distant longing is directed towards tragedy by the precocious imagination of her little sister (Saoirse Ronan, later Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave). A series of unfortunate events and misunderstandings lead the child to believe that McAvoy is the rapist of her teenage cousin, leading towards his incarceration and release into the army during World War II. Where the story goes from here is to spin out of control as the plot focuses sometimes on the couple’s love affair but then decides it’s actually about the young girl’s moral awakening. In the end it’s a shallow experience but a perfectly executed one on the surface; Joe Wright shows much class and style in the telling of the story, but never manages to make the cardboard characters sympathetic or identifiable. Look for cameos by Belgian actor Jérémie Renier and the late director Anthony Minghella.