4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Extremely good adaptation of a fantastic book,
This review is from: Atonement [DVD]  (DVD)Many films based on books can be a great disappointment. The weight of expectation lies heavy, and subtleties can be overlooked. I watched Atonement with trepidation, dreading the possibility of it not living up to the book or worse still, ruining and debasing it. But Joe Wright's adaptation was both sensitive and true to one of the most simply touching and understatedly tragic books I have read.
The settings as well as the actors were perfectly cast, and the languid, suffocating heat of the summer was set perfectly as a background to the misunderstandings, love and deceit that form the main action of the story.
Saiorse Ronan was excellent as the young Briony, a captivating and complex character, her understanding/misunderstandings of events convincingly drawn, and shaping the lives and destinies of the other characters.
The blossoming romance between Keira Knightly as posh girl Cecilia and James McEvoy as working class but educated Robbie is charming.
The other supporting characters give performances of an equal standard, especially in displaying the role that class still had in 1930's England, as the privilged begin to close ranks against the educated but expendable son of the cleaning lady. Harriet Walter is excellent as Emily, the withdrawn, slightly distant mother who suffers from her migraines. Benedict Cumberbatch captures the character of Paul Marshall, the crass, slimey chocolate magnate to a tee; and Juno Temple as the manipulative Lola leaves the viewer in no doubt of her part in events.
The second part of the film which finds Robbie in Dunkirk is horrific, but complelling, and provides a stark contrast to the privilege of the pre-war scenes that open the film. I'm not sure whether much set building or clever camera angles were necessary to turn Redcar into a simulation of bombed out 1940's Dunkirk, but it proved a convincing backdrop.
Romola Garai's performance as Briony as a young adult provides the important linking piece of the jigsaw to lead us to the heartbreaking conclusion of the film with Vanessa Redgrave giving a touching cameo as Briony as an old woman, revealing the full picture of cause and effect of her childhood actions. The ending, and Briony's atonement is sublimely moving, and illustrates almost as well as the book, how our actions can shape our destinies, and how life (especially against the backdrop of war) can literally hang by a thread.