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Movie Review: Atonement

Alternate Title: The 'C' Word

Story: If only director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice) had developed the second half of his latest film as engagingly as the first half, well - it coulda been a contenda! However - that was not to be. The screenplay by Christopher Hampton is based on the wildly popular novel (more on this topic in Predilection) by Ian McEwan.

It is 1935, pre-war England, where the landed gentry act as if nothing can shake their rights and privileges. Little thirteen year old Briony spies her older sister Cecilia doing something strange by the water fountain with Robbie, the son of their cook. She then snoops and finds them doing something even ickier in the library. That very same night she also happens upon her older cousin doing something nasty in the woods. That one night changes the lives of all involved.

Wright films that night from several points of view and it works well. Fast forward to four years later and the film changes. The characters did not develop for me and most of the scenes seem staged and postured. Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey was sweeping and lovely to watch but looked more like commercials for perfumes or clothing lines instead of the movie sets.

This story of obsession, tragedy, atonement and war should have had me engrossed but it simply did not grab me. Just because a film is released at the end of the year does not make it automatically an Oscar contender.

Acting: Keira Knightley is lovely to look upon but she postures too much and at times looks as if she has a stomach in place of that look of longing. James McAvoy (Last King of Scotland) was very fine indeed as Robbie. Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave as the three Briony's were all wonderful to watch.

Predilection: I hated the book. The film was better paced than the never ending book and I tried very hard to be objective while watching the film.

Critters: A barn owl, dogs and horses (two are shot in the war)

Food: You would think there would have been more food but drama overtook meals.

Sex Spectrum: It turns out to be Cecilia and Robbie in the library with a ladder.

Blatant Product Placement: None

Soundtrack: The music by Dario Marianelli was at times over the top but I did like the addition of the typewriter keys to move the story forward,

Visual Art: It was a lovely film to watch with attention to detail sumptuous.

Theater Audience: A very odd assortment of people for an early show on a Tuesday morning.

Weather: The weather was quite lovely in England and in France.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: War is always hell

Drift Factor: I drifted often.

Predictability Level: High - if you read the book. Surprises if you did not.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: No

Big Screen or Rental: If you are a fan of the book I would suggest the big screen. If not - wait for Cable.

Length: Two hours