I recently watched Atonement without reading the book, watching the trailer, stalking it’s ratings and reviews on IMDB. Nothing. No previous knowledge or expectations. But, oddly enough, I have mixed feelings. It’s like watching a stellar performance where the dancer or actor stumbles, sprains their foot, and attempts to continue. The former grace is alluded to, but tantalizingly out of reach and inaccessible. I know that I loved the first half of the story-line; the beginning was great the sound of the type writer hammering in the reality of Briony Tallis’ decision throughout the movie kept the audience aware of the main plot as the movie wanders through the war, dunkirk, and regular scenes.
The majority of the characters, Keira Knightly included, were mediocre, not hindering the film but not helping it along either. Just there. Mcavoy, on the other hand, was great. He truly portrayed the educated, but forever looked down upon household help. This is, by far, the best performance I have seen him in (Wanted? HAHAHAHA). But by far the best actor is the young, 13 year old Briony who far outshines her older, 18 year old self. She seems almost ethereal, yet the role she plays in destroying the lives of her sister and lover is very real. She is, unfortunately, the only developed character. And that is where the movie loses it allure and becomes a pretentious, ego-centric, money-spending waste of time. Other than two sex-based scenes at the beginning between Knightly and Mcavoy the audience is left wondering exactly what is their never-dying lust based on? Excuse me. Did I say lust? I meant love.
The latter scenes I had a serious problem with. The war? Come on, now. What was the point, exactly, of showing us the victims at the hospital? Or the young French man that died right after Briony told him her name? Or the scene at Dunkirk?? Don’t get my wrong. Taken as isolated scenes, they were very touching and impressive. They show the gruesome face of war and the scene at Dunkirk, wow. Very impressive five-minute span that did cram too much into too little but nonetheless gave the right idea. But as a part of the movie? They weren’t developed enough to stand as six minutes of an hour and a half movie. Instead they left the audience lost, and broke up the momentum the movie had been building between Knightly and Mcavoy.
The ending didn’t sit right with me. That a person could live that long with herself after lying about someone she had cared about previously? Not someone I would want to cross. And apparently writing a novel in which she wants to give them the happiness she felt she had always prevented, so she concludes her story with the final act of kindness of ignoring their deaths and giving them a fictional life where they can make up for lost time. With specific emphasis on that “I gave them their happiness.” True atonement? I think not…