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Lead Keira Knightley
Music Dario Marianelli
Director Joe Wright
Story Ian McEwans
Screenplay Christopher Hamption
Editing Paul Tothill
Camera Seamus McGarvey

Review by R. Samala
Rating: 3.5/5 TT Rating: 3.5/5
Rating Reference: 1-Bad; 2-So So; 3-Can watch once; 4-Well made, must watch; 5-Exceptional work;

Atonement - Review
Ian McEwan's monumental best seller and director Joe wright second film(he's done TV work in Britain) is a strong contender at 2007 annual Academy Awards with multipul nominations including best picture, best adopted screenplay, best original score and best cinematography.

It is about the anger of a 13 yrs girl, who tells lie that destroys three lives, including her own. It is about the agony of a 18 yrs girl who wander to redeem for her mistake. And finally it is about the atonement of a 61 yrs old lady who suffer her whole life for that same mistake.

In the first part of the movie, Briony Tallis, 13yrs, just finished writing her new play which she want to stage for her brother's homecoming. Her sizzling-sexy-bold-older sister Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightly) is in love with handsome son of their cook, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), her classmate at Cambridge. Their love leads to a charged erotic episode next to a fountain on the house lawn.

The self-possessed and over imaginative Briony sees this and imagines Robbie mistreating her sister. Briony has a crush on Robbie, and her jealousy is inflamed. After misinterpreting a few incidents between the two lovers (reading an erotic letter and disturbing their passionate love making) she develops a kind of hatred towards Robbie. She gets a chance to launch her fiction into reality when her cousin Lola gets raped by a stranger. She points Robbie as a "sex addict" and wrongly accuses him of raping Lola. Robbie goes to jail, then remanded to army for five years.

The second part of the movie takes place five years later. The war is under way and Robbie, moves from prison to war as a soldier, is fighting with Germans in France. But he vows to return to his beloved Cecilia, who works as a nurse in London. Now a guilt ridden-adult Briony-age 18 (played by Romola Garai) seeks redemptive nursing work to the wounded soldiers. There is a meeting of the three that demonstrates to them what they have all lost. Briony tries to atone, with her apology to the tragic mistake she committed, thus giving couple a happy ending.

Here comes the brief final part of the movie- a shockingly powerful ending. Briony is an old woman, age 61 (played by Vanessa Redgrave), just released her autobiographical last novel, reveals what happened to Robbie and Cecielia in reality, and what is her atonement to them.

Keira Knightley who also acted in Wright's first film, "Pride and Prejudice", played Cecilia with stunning style, speaks rapidly in that classic old-accent with her smoky eyes and slender physic, is perfect in her role. She is so beautiful and graceful. She is well-matched by costar James McAvoy. With his charming masculinity, McAvoy delivered an emotionally charged performance. Performances by Benedict Cumberbatch (brief role as a family friend) and Juno Temple as a teenage girl Lola are precisely good.

But it was the 13years old Irish debutant Saoirse Ronan as Briony Tallis-gave a terrific performance. This blue eyed skinny girl makes her impression on viewers with her surprisingly innocent looks and self-possessed behavior.

I've got to mention the music produced by Dario Marianelli's in first place. He used an old-fashioned manual typewriter to create fantastic fresh background score. You'll be spell bounded by his technique and the harmony. And it breathes life even into some ordinary scenes like the montages of McAvoy typing a letter to Cecelia. Even the sounds like buzzing of flies used so creatively to create a mood effect.

Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey provided an extraordinary work. I've never seen a great and beautiful beach shots after 'Piano'. Seamus canned some great shots in Atonement. An as in atonement. An awesome single Steadicam shot (more than five minutes) across the war ground shows great photographic values. Even the landscapes were rendered beautifully.

As the film travels back and forth and some scenes happen between Cecilia and Robbie we see them twice. First we watch it through Briony's eyes then see the same scene later from Robbie and Cecilia's point of view. Editor Paul Tothill used his scissors so accurately to narrate this complex drama so lucid. There is not a single scene or shot that drags.

Keira Nightley looks like an angel in Jacqueline Durran's costumes. Atonement is technically top notch in all other departments.

The non-linear screenplay with optimum dialogues by screenwriter Christopher Hampton is very attractive and good. Every scene and every character designed properly.

"Atonement" is director Wright's second film. His conviction towards the film, painterly approach and his teamwork is clearly visible on the screen. He was succeeded in telling a compelling story with re-creating each period with detail. Especially in the 2 point-of-view-scenes, differences between actual action and Briony's perception, Wrights approach is at par with master filmmakers. Moreover, these kinds of period dramas usually bore the audience but Wright succeeded in the artistic alchemy of blending art with commercial filmmaking style.

Atonement is movingly good film with epic proportions. It is intelligent but not boring. A must watch.

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