Review of “Atonement” – A Disappointing Film!

Today, I’m waving a white flag in surrender. Condemned and despondent about it all, I’m giving up the movies. And this time I mean it.

Two days ago I reviewed “Hunting and Gathering” which I didn’t enjoy. I haven’t enjoyed a film for a very long time. And this is in spite of being a cinephile in the past, so much so that I even studied cinema at a post graduate level. I used to love movies, but something has happened in the last few years that has caused me to change my mind about them.

Today’s venture to see “Atonement” put the lid on the coffin for good.

“Atonement”, based on the novel of the same name, has been receiving rave reviews. So when I read them I thought I would give cinema one more chance.

It’s a period piece beginning in 1935. I like period pieces. It has an elegant grand estate in it. I like that kind of setting. It’s based on a successful novel, so it should have some substance to it. It’s not an action movie, science fiction or a tough guy buddy movie. My cup overfloweth with blockbusters and having seen a couple of them, that was enough for me. So this film should have been to my liking.

First of all, I have to admit that I am in the minority with this one. “Atonement” has been nominated for the following seven Golden Globe Awards.

Best Motion Picture (Drama)
Best Actress (Keira Knightley)
Best Actor (James McAvoy)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Saoirse Ronan)
Best Director (Joe Wright)
Best Screenplay (Christopher Hampton)
Best Original Score (Dario Marianelli)so

So why did it not appeal to me?

I agree that the original score was excellent, so here’s one Golden Globe from me. As for the rest I don’t think so.

I would like to suggest a few awards of my own. The first is a Golden Globe for extreme slowness. The plot moves at such a snail pace that it becomes tedious to wait for something to happen.

It’s as if every scene is set up and then the actors adopt a pose and stay there for five minutes while close-ups are being shot. I think I’ve had my fill of close-ups and eyes staring straight ahead, a bit like Sergio Leone productions. You know the ones I mean, Spaghetti Westerns with so many close-ups that one became uncomfortable counting the hair in the actor’s nostrils.

Most of the action was on the part of the film audience who had to work out whether we were watching the present or was this another flashback. Having endured avant garde cinema many years ago when time changes were all the rage as in “Last Year in Marienbad”, I have a dislike for constant flashbacks. They work in literature where you can go back a few pages if you missed something, but they are wearing in a film.

So here’s a Golden Globe for jumping all over the place from present to the past to three weeks ago etc.

The third Golden Globe goes to the director, Joe Wright, who dragged out the war scenes without making them in the least bit traumatic. Not an easy task, I have to say, but he managed to make them so boring that I wondered why so much money was spent on recreating Dunkirk which really didn’t have any importance. The entire war scenario could have been contracted instead of resembling a rambling American Civil War set waiting for some action.

There were thousands of extras on the set and many irrelevant scenes. The catering bill alone would have been in the millions.

So here’s another Golden Globe for a war scene that leaves the eyes dry and lids drooping.

Now for the acting. It was all right but I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley. Not to worry because she is getting so emaciated that she’s bound to disappear altogether. I last saw her in “Pride and Prejudice” where her bones stuck out so much that I wanted to cook her a decent meal. In “Atonement” she’s even thinner still and I believe that she would make a good catwalk model because she has such good bones.

In my opinion, Charlize Theron would have made a better Cecilia than Keira did.

James McAvoy (Robbie) who is her love interest is not my kind of hero. He looks a bit camp and seems to be wearing too much lipstick in several scenes. So here’s my Golden Globe for inappropriate make-up and poor casting for the two main characters.

I think that probably concludes my list of alternate nominations for the Golden Globes, but I suspect that this film will win many awards because it’s an expensive and ambitious production along the lines of “The English Patient” which I also found slow and contrived, by the way.

Our standards are much lower nowadays. Any film where the actor changes sex, wears a false nose or gains twenty kilos for the role is bound to win awards.

Where is David Lean when you need him? “Lawrence of Arabia” had a cast of thousands and it was well worth it. His film, “Ryans’ Daughter” was brilliant in its casting, direction, acting and production. It made me cry because of its poignant tale. Imagine what he could have done with this script. On reflection, I think he would have refused to shoot it.

If you read the synopsis of “Atonement” it also should have made me cry, but it didn’t because one couldn’t get close enough to the characters to empathise with them. In a film of this genre which should have tugged at the heartstrings, that’s a terrible indictment on the direction and the scre


One thought on “Review of “Atonement” – A Disappointing Film!

  1. We thought we should give the film critics some credit re Atonement – we wish we hadn’t. We couldn’t recall what you had written but after following your comments again we agree with you wholeheartedly -it is high time the general public is not treated so condescendingly. Why should we pay to be treated as complete idiots.


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