Movie Review: Atonement

Starring: James McAvoy, Keira Knightly, Saorsie Ronan
Directed By: Joe Wright
Written By: Ian McEwan (novel), Christopher Hampton (screenplay)
Universal, 2007 (limited release)
R; 123 minutes
2 stars (out of 5)


I realize I'm really late on this one. I recall trying to read an Ian McEwan novel--can't remember which--some years ago and being bored to tears within a handful of pages. So I didn't finish it and I never tried another. This one fact should have tipped me off about this movie, but it was so widely well received, I felt it deserved a chance. So one night when my husband was traveling, I watched Atonement via Vudu.

It was a waste of time, for me at least. The characters I might have liked or at least found interesting didn't get enough screen time or development. And the chief characters were difficult to like or care about. At the end of it all, I felt like I'd just watched a two-hour movie about a bunch of British people falling into various bodies of water. And I understand that water is recognized by literati as the token symbol of baptism and being washed clean, etc., but honest to God, talk about overkill. If it had been a pie-in-the-face comedy routine, there would have been a dozen pies and the audience would have stopped laughing long before it was finished. As it was, the movie is a drama/tragedy sort of thing, so it's both a downer and--with all that water--a drowner.

The catalytic moment in the story relies heavily on both coincidence and poor decision making. Several people must make a series of bad choices to get to the point where the main character finds she must atone(!) for what she's done and what has befallen the other characters. It's something of a stretch, and not even that compelling. By the time I got to what's supposed to be the Big Twist, I really didn't care any more.

Anyway, I can't look at James McAvoy and not think, Mr. Tumnus! I think I could have liked him in the film if I could've brought myself to care. Maybe something vital was left on the cutting room floor. Maybe the book really is better. Not that it would take much.

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