Atonement Joe Wright

Atonement Joe Wright

I get the impression that this movie is about to be hailed as a masterpiece and it’s my duty to tell you that it’s not. But who cares about that? For sexy, balls-out, all encompassing emotional entertainment, this thing has it all over any of the other so-called fun movies released this year. Based on a novel by Ian McEwan, it deals with the terrible sin of 13-year-old Briony (Saiorse Ronan) that results when she spies her sister Cecilia (Kiera Knightley) doing something suggestive with her working-class boyfriend Robbie (James McAvoy). When something terrible happens at their country estate, Briony fingers Robbie and sets into motion a disaster that separates the two lovers in the midst of the nightmare of WW II. For all of its post-modern messing with structure and perspective, this is a very old-fashioned kind of movie in the Gone with the Wind tradition. It also happens to be a very good example of the type, swapping the wink-nudge of meta filmmaking with a blunt, open approach to the romance and historical sweep of the narrative. If it’s not an especially intellectual film it’s still not stupid; it’s also not in denial about what it wants to do, which is thrill us with the mad passion and exquisite anguish of its star-crossed lovers. If it kind of loses steam in the final stretch (and caps things off with an unconvincing reversal that proves nothing), it doesn’t matter: there’s more good time here that one usually gets out of a mainstream movie. There aren’t enough credible straight-ahead movies like this left in the world, so we have to cherish one when we get it. This is a film that won’t ever save your life but will make you feel so very grateful to be spending one lucky evening at the movies. (Alliance)