POSTER INITIAL RANTING I first saw this film Dec 27 last year but I decided I wanted to see Atonement a second time before doing a review on it.
Its that kind of a brilliant film that demands a second viewing before passing judgment on it – its just so rich.

Well, I guess its clear from that introduction what I think of the film.

As I mentioned in my previous post I love this new director who hails from the BBC, Joe Wright. His first film, an adaption of Pride and Prejudice was just superb (I don’t care what you Jane Austen purist think) and in this his second film he proves he is definitely a young director to keep an eye on.

THE SET UP? Cecilia, Briony and their parents live an upper-middle class existence in the 1930’s. Their housekeeper’s son, Robbie, has recently returned from studies and is keeping the garden. On one hot summers’ day, as Briony is entertaining cousins from the north, the sexual tension between Cecelia and Robbie comes to a head. On this day Briony witnesses two incidents her thirteen year-old brain cannot seperate/comprehend. This leads her to accuse Robbie of a terrible crime he didn’t commit. Four years later, in the middle of WWII, Robbie is trying to make his way back home from France, Celicia is a ward nurse at a war hospital and Briony is trying to atone for her crime against Robbie and Cecilia.

THE CAST? (in order of performance cred)
Briony and Robbie at the house Saoirse Ronan is Briony (at 13) – This young actress is stunning and just amazing as the thirteen year old writer/control freak who is deeply conflicted. Ronan blissfully conveys the cogs turning in Briony’s brain through the simplest of looks. Needless to say Joe Wright is an actor’s director (just look at what he got out of Knightley in Pride) but all power to Ronan for her performance here, I don’t think I’ve seen such a great performance out of a young star in a long time. She’s right up there with Keisha Castle Hughes in Whale Rider.
James McAvoy is Robbie. Aaahhhhh!!!!!! I just can’t believe how good this guy is, its like he came from no where, did the Idi Armin film (holding his own against Forrest Whitaker in his oscar-winning role) and now he’s playing Robbie – a character deeply deeply heartbroken by the lies that destroyed his reputation and his soul. I just can’t say any more about McAvoy in this film. He better win the BAFTA, that’s all I can say.
Keira Knightley is Cecilia. I didn’t want to mention her right up front, even though she is the biggest name attached to Atonement. It was nice to see Knightley in a role where she’s not the centre of attention – actually that’s not entirely accurate – she’s been in heaps of films where she’s not the centre of the piece. I guess she just really wanted to work with Wright again, and who can blame her, he’s the reason for her oscar nom a few years back). No… I’m being too harsh to the stick insect – in this, she is good, not as good as in Pride (although my cousin disagrees with me), but still good. Worthy of the role.
Romola Garai – Briony aged 18. I like Romola Garai, maybe because her name is so fun to say (Romola Garai, Romola Garai, Garai Romola) or maybe because I keep seeing her pop up unexpectedly in movies I see. Not one for the lime light – although that should change – Garai is undervalued as Briony aged 18, really it is she who has to carry the weight of the character’s realisation of her lies and the beginning of the atonement. She is great in this – and a perfect cast after Ronan.

Celicia sends letter to RobbieWHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM? Arghhhhh, I feel ill-equipped to explain to you all the reasons why this film is an instant classic, an absolute diamond. Let me just say that Wright is a brilliant director who makes great texts into great films – stylistically, “act-ingly”, the score is superb – I can’t say enough about the score!!! And there’s this one scene of recovering soldiers on a beach that will take your breath away – trust me. If Keira Knightley is the reason you’re not seeing this film – just pretend its someone with less of a pout and built like a normal person.

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Because the content is heavy-going I would suggest a close friend/movie companion or a group of film fanatics so you can rave about it afterwards!

ANY BITS TO KNOW ABOUT BEFORE? It is definitely a mature-aged film. Personally I would say for 18 year-olds and above (The Australian Film and Literature Classifiers have given it an MA15+ rating). Its not overly graphic when it comes to sex but its dealt with so splendidly it feels like its more graphic than it really is. Watch out for Robbie’s typing too! For specifics see here.



7 Responses

  1. Since seeing this film and realising James McAvoy was also the lovely Mr Tumnus in Narnia, I’ve made it my business to watch everything else he’s been in (not something I usually do) and I think he’s simply brilliant. Not only incredibly talented (and easy on the eyes – sigh) but he chooses his films extremely well. The Last King of Scotland and Atonement particularly are both amazing.

    I like your reviews by the way, you’ve made me want to see Cloverfield… haven’t yet but soooon…

  2. Thanks Jo! I hope you didn’t watch The Last King at night – I did, freaked me well out! – Had to stop at the part in the airport at the end and watch the rest in the morning!!!

  3. The Last King of Scotland was utterly amazing. Review that one Jess 🙂

  4. Yes please do! I actually can’t find a Christian review that has anything good to say about it, which I find incredible to be honest… Apparently a film that clearly shows the inherent flaws of human nature in the extreme (Amin) and the even scarier norm (Nicholas), paints evil as evil and shows the dangers of ‘little’ sins like selfishness and hedonism, is unsuitable for Christians. Which I guess means I shouldn’t read my Bible any more…

  5. Wow Jo, you seem to be the expert on that film, not me! Such beautiful descriptions, maybe you should write the review! Actually lets do that … if you’re up for it… write it together? Let me know if its ok if I email you about it…

  6. Haha, I’ve only seen it once (so far)! But yeah sure, email me about it. 🙂

  7. At the risk of commenting on the film ACTUALLY BEING REVIEWED (kidding), I’d have to disagree with you on the acting of the “Briony’s”. I thought that Briony at 13 was understandably stilted for a child actor, but it did distract from the film. And I found the 18 year old Briony disappointing. Just staring wide-eyed into the camera lens doesn’t actually portray “conflicted” – it just says that you have a curious eye condition.

    Having said all that, I agree that McAvoy and Knightley were fantastic: both surpassing their previous bests in Last King Of Scotland (which should be reviewed) and “The Jacket” (miles ahead of her pouting in P&P) respectively. I just wanted the film to keep telling me about them and not spend so much time with the whiny Briony.

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