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On the surface, nothing about director Joe Wright's (Pride and Prejudice, 2005) Atonement suggests deserved consideration among the handful of best movies of 2007. Its adaptation from critically acclaimed writer Ian McEwan's novel of the same name notwithstanding—which won the 2003 National Book Critics Circle prize for fiction—it doesn't look to be anything more than a conventional love story. To the contrary, the film offers a rich story told with concise and economical movements. Atonement propels forward with a clear sense of purpose—as natural born sinners, repentance for our sins is the only chance we have at being whole again. Potential audiences may wish to reciprocate contrition should they stand up an encounter with the inspired Atonement.

On the hottest day of the 1935 summer childhood friends Cecilia (Keira Knightly, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) and Robbie (James McAvoy, Becoming Jane) share a sexual awakening following an awkward and spontaneously provocative brush by the fountain at the front of the country estate Cecilia lives on. An event, it turns out, secretly witnessed by Cecilia's 13-year-old sister Briony (Saoirse Ronan). Briony represents the central point-of-view through which the story's events unfold.

Later the same day, the love struck couple—both in their late teens—verbally and physically expresses their love for each other by sexually consummating their relationship in the library of Cecilia's home. When Briony witnesses her sister and Robbie personifying the joy of sex amongst the hardbacks, the couple is quite expectedly embarrassed; Briony is quite unexpectedly angry and repulsed. This day-long series of sexually charged events comes to a boiling head when Briony sees an adult man in the flashlight-lit darkness of the estate grounds raping her cousin Lola. Briony volunteers that she saw the rapist. She knows it is—she says she knows it is—Robbie. He is arrested, sent to prison, and later sent to fight in WWII.

Like Briony, Atonement is shifty and clever in how it presents its non-linear storyline by replaying events from different points-of-view. Initially, we trust that Briony's perspective is the historically accurate point-of-view for the events we see because she drags the camera with her wherever she goes. As events are replayed we begin see that this trust is unmerited. The film interlaces time sequences of what happened, didn't happen, and embellishments—all from Briony's distorted point-of-view. This structure is executed in such a way that we're never quite sure what is real and what Briony reinvents as she, Cecilia, and Robbie try to cope with the irrevocable damage brought on by these crippling events over the course of the next five years.

The film's production standouts include an anxious classical musical score accented by the use of percussive sounding mechanical typewriter keys, sounding like an ominous drum as characters bang out correspondence to each other one pulsating key at a time. Story tautness reaches its peak during the brutal and chaotic aftermath of the battle of Dunkirk, France, that has Robbie trying to make his way back to Cecilia—a jaw-dropping scene with a continuous five minute steady-camera shot showing the evacuation of 1000 British soldiers (gratefully minus CGI effects). Performances throughout the film are solid, though the naturally beautiful Knightly's Cecilia is conspicuously absent in the second half of the movie following Robbie's arrest.


DVD Details:

Screen Formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; director's commentary; audio commentary; making-of featurette.

* Commentary
o Feature-length commentary track with director Joe Wright.
* Featurettes
o Bringing the Past to Life (26:00)
o From Novel to Screen: Adapting the Classic (05:00)
* Deleted Scenes - 7 and a half minutes of scenes that didn't make the final cut. With optional commentary.

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging


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