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From the award-winning director of Pride and Prejudice comes a stunning, critically acclaimed epic story of love. When a young girl catches her sister in a passionate embrace with a childhood friend, her jealousy drives her to tell a lie that will irrevocably change the course of all their lives forever. Academy Award nominee Keira Knightley and James McAvoy lead an all-star cast in the film critics are hailing "the year's best picture" (Thelma Adams, US Weekly).
Director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice) gives Ian McEwans bestselling novel a sumptuous treatment for the screen that should come to be regarded as one of the defining films of the epic romantic drama. Indeed, everything about this film stems from those three words: there is little here that is not epic, romantic, and dramatic, and Atonement is a film that masterfully expresses the overarching sense of adventure and emotion that such stories are meant to convey. In this instance, the story centers around the love story of highborn Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley) and housekeepers son Robbie Turner (James McAvoy, in a star-making turn), in England shortly before World War II. Despite their class differences, they are powerfully attracted to each other, and just as their relationship begins Robbie is tragically forced away due to false accusations from Cecilias younger sister Briony (Saoirse Ronan). She has a crush on Robbie, too, and after reading a private letter he sent to Cecilia, and then witnessing the first expression of their mutual love but mistaking it for mistreatment, her resentment grows until it leads to her telling the lie that will send Robbie away. Soon World War II breaks out; Robbie enlists and is posted to France, Cecilia is a nurse in London, and Briony, now age 18 and aware of what she has done, tries to atone for her actions--but none of them will be able to get back what they have lost. Knightley and McAvoy are perfectly cast as the young star crossed lovers, and the young Ronan is particularly impressive, but its clear that the real star of this film is the director. Wright allows Atonement to revel in every moment of its story and each scene is compelling in its own way, but that now famous extended shot with Robbie on the beach at Dunkirk--filmed in one take and sure to be considered one of the great long tracking shots in film history--is the most memorable moment in this remarkable film. Atonement is an excellent example of what can happen when a great book meets great filmmaking. This is one that is not to be missed. --Daniel Vancini
Stills from Atonement (click for larger image).
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****Spoilers, but I read the spoilers too and decided to watch anyway so up to you!****
The movie starts out with a very intelligent young woman who dabbles with writing and has a secret crush on Robbie (James McAvoy). After wanting telling Robbie she wants him to watch the play she has written, for her visiting brother and a few altercations, between her and her cousins(over starring in a play). The girl Briey is in a bad mood already,then sees her sister and Robbie having what looks like a slight tiff, between the two. The relationship between Robbie and her sister Cecelia is the classic poor boy loves a rich girl story. Their brother comes to visit and brings a friend of his who is an older man.
Robbie decides to write Cecelia a letter which is what starts the wheel of the misunderstanding. Robbie writes an extremely crude letter and quickly realizes he can not send this letter, then rewrites another one. Apologizing over his actions towards Cecelia causing her to break a vase. While trying to get ready for a dinner party, Robbie becomes distracted and places the wrong letter in the envelope. He makes the blunder of handing it to her the younger sister briey who decides to read it and is shocked. Confused she confronts her cousin that is around her own age, Lola who gives her idea that Robbie is a sex crazed man. The young cousin is flushed,when talking to Briey and seems to have had some sort of fight. She brushes it off claiming it was her younger brothers. Then as Briey is walking down to dinner she walks in on Cecelia and Robbie in the fits of passion. Both embarrassed fix themselves and walk into dinner, while secretly caressing one another's hand. During dinner Briey is extremely rude and short with Robbie. It is discovered that the twin brother's are missing and decided to run away.
The whole dinner party is out searching for these young boys, when yet again Briey has walked upon sexual encounter,but it is not with her sister,but her cousin Lola. With what seemed to be a man dressed the same as Robbie and dashing off as she drew closer. With no view of the face, Briey rushes to her cousin and asked what has happened. Then Briey makes them comment "Was it robbie?"
The cousin deemly shakes her head yes and says the violator covered her eyes and she didn't know who it was. Briey thinks that Robbie had attacked her sister as well since she walked in on their steamy love making in the library. She accuses him of being the one of the attack, then Robbie is carted off to jail and given a choice to rot or join the army.
We fast forward to a few years later where Robbie is trying to make his way back to Cecelia. The story pretty much follows that of a love story, the 2 have gotten back together. But he is called off to duty and the eventually get married.
Then the story changes to Briey 5 years later and feeling guilty. Putting off her education she goes into a hospital for soldiers and tries to help out as much as she can. There is a scene that shows her confronting Cecelia who has for the most part cut herself off away from her family. Cecelia is married to Robbie in a small apartment and Robbie sees Briey and is on the verge of killing her, but calms down. He pretty much tells briey that he wants a letter from her stating why she accused him of being the one who raped her cousin. It is told that she realized her mistake, because she remembered that the man who had run away from her cousin was her brother's friend, who was walking Lola down the isle. Briey has agreed and starts to leave, then we fast forward to I would say about 40 years later.
We see a much older Briey and she is on a talk show promoting her last book, as she finds out she is dying. The story is true in the beginning, but after Robbie's arrest. Briey never knows if her sister and Robbie ever met again. Her sister cut herself off from the family and died on oct 15th, 1940 and Robbie Had died June 1st 1940. That the reason this was Briey's last book, is the reason she had never had the courage to confront Robbie and her sister, after the mistake she had made. That her writing the book in that fashion was to try, to giver her sister and Robbie the life they had deserved....
The few issues I had with some reviews that I have read a lot were about the war, but Briey states everything for the most part is fictional at the end. People flipped that Briey makes a statement saying she had a crush on Robbie around 10 or 11,but the misunderstanding happened at age 13. She very well could have started the crush during that time and continued it. People flipped that he should have never handed off the letter to the child, well it's very obvious in the movie that he didn't mean to hand that to the girl and never intended for anyone to see it! He apologized to Cecelia for ever getting the letter and made the statement he had a different letter. A lot of reviews flipped saying Briey was a hateful child who purposely destroyed her sister's and Robbie's lives. Watch the movie it is kind of obvious it was a misunderstanding and this woman had been carrying this burden around for her entire life. She has finally decided that before she died to tell the truth, where the story could have just died off with her. Which is why she is atoning for her actions. She is the cause of 2 people not having the lives they deserve to have. It's a very sad ending, but to me actually realistic. Not everything ends on a happy note with love. I can understand having this secret that eats away at you.
I really enjoyed the movie and the act a little of the dramatic side, but still all around a good movie!
All the cast does their job well. James McAvoy and Keira Knightley are very believable as the films romance that is ripped apart by the jealously and anger, or maybe confusion, of a child named Briony. Briony is played in the film at three different stages of her life by three different actresses. As much I like the performances of the romantics leads, the film's three best performances are all of the character Briony. It's real a feat to be seen how seamless the character transfers from one actress to another. In a way the film is more about Briony, what she did and the guilt that follows, than about anything else.
This film takes you from an affluent family's estate, to the evacuation of Dunkirk, to war hospital, all wonderfully stages and superbly shot, and laced with a terrific score. It's a journey that feels very fresh compared to many other more cliché filled romantic dramas out there. The ending is particularly powerful and surprising, though to say more than that would be irresponsible of me. It's definitely a must see.
Nice to visit again the brilliant star of "brooklyn, Soairse Ronan"
Spring for 4 bucks and rent it