Dave’s 3-Word Review:
That’s a climax.
I think any movie should have two main elements to truly be successful: an intro hook and a climax. Not every movie or story has a hooking beginning, which is a shame. Those are the foundation of the rest of the film. Now, some films still are able to be successful if they have a larger than life climax. No matter what, a movie has a climax, it just depends on how it is done. If it’s not done well, that’s what we call anticlimactic. Atonement is a film that has both a tremendous hook and explosive climax, but a lot of the stuffing in between I could have done without.
This story is pretty much the entire life story of Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) told through the perspective of her book, Atonement, which is the love story of her sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner. Confusing? Let me shorten that – Briony narrates the movie that’s really about her sister. See, way back in 1935, Briony’s cousin is raped by an older man, and because she is mad at Robbie, she accuses him of the crime. Robbie is sent to prison, and instead of prison, Robbie is sent off to war, which he remains for four years. Throughout the film, Briony’s character tries to make amends for the wrong that she did, but the gravity of her initial lie intensifies until the very end.
Act One took place in 1935 in Cambridge when the rape accusation took place. What I liked about this act was the way it was filmed. The entire movie, in a sense, had this whole style of “shock and awe” over and over again. Little Briony would witness something she wouldn’t expect, and then the movie would rewind time and explain how this actually happened. Act Two took place primarily in the war, and I really couldn’t care less for this Act. I didn’t really care for it because I don’t care for war films. However, I do understand the point.
This film had a louder-than-life message of the importance of honesty and consequence of lies. Because she lied, Robbie is sent off to war, a place he had absolutely no choice in going. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a little girl for making a lie out of jealousy. Just because she had a childish crush on a boy, her lie took it to the extreme and more. Just imagine the guilt she had to burden with all these years, and not knowing if she would ever make peace with those she wronged. In that respect, I can appreciate the war side of things. Especially when Briony grown up witnessed the horrible reality of the aftermath of war. She put her sister’s love in danger because of something selfish and childish.
This all comes together in the third act, which I won’t explain very much of other than to say Briony is now an old woman. In this act, anything that used to be confusing earlier are explained because this is the climax. Some movies don’t know how to make such a powerful climactic ending, but boy did they do a good job here. It’s such a powerful and bittersweet end, but I wouldn’t ask for anything else.
There is a lot of background messages going on here that are exciting to watch and important to remember. Most of which I already explained in my review. I just want to say the portrayal of the messages within the context of the story is so fresh and so unique that it turns a movie into something you can really love. It feels like a chick flick while still feeling like a film anyone can enjoy. That’s special. Beyond that, the visuals are striking. Atonement is beautifully shot and expertly choreographed throughout every scene.
Atonement is a beautiful film filled to the brim with enticing messages of the importance of honesty and destruction of lies, but also the burden of guilt and the everlasting drive to right the wrong and the brutal reality of fact versus fiction. How life really operates is important here.
I wasn’t so much a fan of the scenes of Robbie at war. I do get it, but I’ve never been a fan of war films. The film is already two hours long, and I think they could have afforded to remove some of the war stuff. However, the 6-7 minutes never-cutting-away shot is pretty awesome respectfully.
Sister Drummond: Now go and wash the blood off your face.