For Whom The Bell Tones: In director Joe Wright's (Pride & Prejudice) new movie Atonement, a child's imagination and war rips apart two lovers.
As the film begins, it's a beautiful summer day in England in 1935. The Tallis household is in excitment as the oldest brother will soon be returning to visit bringing with him chocolate magnate Paul Marshall (creepily played by Benedict Cumberbatch Thirteen year old fledgling writer Briony Tallis is working on her play to celebrate the occasion. Soon, however, the anticipation and excitement turns to betrayal when Briony (wonderfully played by newcomer Saoirse Ronan) catches sight of the housekeepers son Robbie Turner (a terrific James McAvoy) and older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) in a compromising position. Soon there is a disappearance and Briony stumbles upon her cousin who says she was attacked. Speculation becomes truth when Briony implicates Robbie in the attack.
The film's second part deals with the after effects of Briony's claim and the effect WWII has on the three main characters. We soon see Briony (now played by Romola Garai) as a nurse and with age has come maturity and a realization at the power her statement has had on the people she loves.
McAvoy gives a truly moving performance, especially in the scene in which he confronts a grown up Briony. Both actresses who play Briony do a decent job, although Ronan has the meatier role and could easily score an Oscar nod. Knightley is decent as the lovestruck and then bitter sister, however, I wasn't blown away by her the way some other reviewers are. She does definitely have an unconventional beauty and she'll almost certainly score an Oscar nod but there's no way she'll win with this role.
Wright does a good job directing but the first part of the film could have been punched up just a bit. There are a number of shots in the film that are too long. There are also some unnecessary shots; especially of a certain word while 13-year-old Briony reads a fateful letter.
Atonement does deserve the acclaim it is receiving and it will definitely get at least several Oscar nods; maybe even the most of any film this year. Last year that distinction went to Dreamgirls; it had eight.
See the movie Atonement and marvel at the story, acting and cinematography and complexity of human emotion. Just prepared to be disappointed by what is lost if you are a fan of the book.
Bags of popcorn (out of 5): 3.75