The movie, which is based on a book, is a three act play of sorts, highlighted by 3 different actresses playing Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai, and Vanessa Redgrave). The beginning sequence of events has young Briony reading a note intended to be discarded that was addressed to her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) from a young man named Robbie (James McAvoy). The explicit letter, leads Briony to believe Robbie is some sort of sex crazed maniac. With this in mind, a later event occurs and Briony accuses Robbie of a highly offensive act. Instead of prison, Robbie enlists in the army, and is sent off. What follows is a tale of separation, love, and consequences. The entire time, Briony is attempting to make things right, Cecilia is heartbroken, and Robbie is simply trying to survive. It is a tragedy is every aspect.
Atonement is pretty much flawless. The story, the acting, the cinematography, everything is right on par. Joe Wright, who had also directed Pride & Prejudice shows that he is the man to go to with period pieces. The real surprise is Saoirse Ronan (also starred in Wright’s Hanna). Playing a 13 year old, she is able to capture the naivety, fear, and confusion that overcomes Briony as a young girl. Not only is she able to share the screen with Knightley and McAvoy, she dominates every minute she is in. Atonement is an absolute gorgeous film that not only thrills the eyes, but pulls on your heart strings.