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Directed by Joe Wright
Produced in 2007
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Once upon a time, Ian McEwan was very much the bad boy of English letters. Yes he was one of our brightest hopes, yes he tended to get spoken about in the company of people like Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Kasuo Ishiguro and yes his books always sold very well – but still there lurked about McEwan the vague whiff of something bodily and unpleasant. As a young man, McEwan was writing amoral short stories about paedophiles loitering on canal banks and short novels about brothers and sisters having it away with one another. Whilst it’s true to say those days are pretty far behind him – McEwan is, these days, the very epitome of the literary establishment – he retains the ability to shock polite society and nowhere is this more in evidence that in Atonement, the no-doubt soon to be Oscar-winning adaptation of his best-selling novel.
Atonement is a big picture. Despite the intimacy of the love story at its centre (and the tricksiness of the conceit at its heart), Joe Wright’s Atonement is a film very much in the David Lean tradition. In the beginning what we have is a country house mystery: Bryony Tallis, a precocious young girl with aspirations to be a writer, spies a scene between her sister, Cecilia (an elegant Keira Knightley finally demonstrating her acting chops), and Robbie, the son of the local groundsman, and the blue touch paper is lit for misunderstanding on a grand scale – misunderstanding soundtracked rather deliciously by the snick of a typewriter to illustrate Briony’s fabulism in full tilt. There are shocks ahoy here – the C-word writ large and fumbled rape among them – but they are as nothing compared to the film’s disorientating and occasionally horrifying mid-section as Robbie, having been imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, finds himself reeling through the chaos of Dunkirk.
Concluding many years later, with Vanessa Redgrave offering a bravura turn as the septuagenarian Briony looking in some way to atone for the sins of her childhood, Atonement is a clever film that treats its audience with intelligence. Kudos to all involved but perhaps special mention to Christopher Hampton who adapted the book for the screen.
Peter Wild on 20th December 2007
Author of 99 reviews
Based on the novel by Ian McEwan, Atonement is a Golden-Globe winning, Bafta-nominated epic love story set against the background of WWII. Lush, lavish and heartwrenching, this is filmmaking which recalls the drama of 1940s classic such as Brief Encounter, and the scale and scope of David Lean's Doctor Zhivago.
It begins in 1935 on the warmest day of the year at a country estate. The unsettling heat stokes 13-year-old Briony Tallis's imagination. When she observes the flirtation between a servant's son, Robbie, and her older sister, Cecilia, she childishly misconstrues it, and her misunderstanding leads to a terrible crime whose consequences follow them through World War II.
Publisher: Universal Pictures
Length: 130 mins
Cat No: 8279494
Format: DVD Colour
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