Atonement takes place in the early twentieth century, at a time when many movie-goers -- myself included -- expected an Oscar™ nominated picture to give us an interesting take on one or more of the many historic things taking place. Then, just about the time I'm first starting to nod off, along comes World War II to pique my interest. Visions of Saving Private Ryan like realism in my head, I perked up, shook off the previous 45 minutes of pointless, meandering backstory, and steeled myself for a glimpse into the heart of darkness... only to find myself again nodding off. This was going to be a rinse-and-repeat ritual throughout the 130 minutes (that's two hours and 10 minutes worth) of Atonement.
The central story itself isn't particularly interesting either. It revolves around a wealthy English girl named Briony Tallis who walks in on a couple having sex in the library. The man (James McAvoy) finishes up and leaves embarrassed, along with Briony's sister Cecilia. Later she (Briony) accuses him (McAvoy) of raping another girl, which isn't true. Years pass, and Briony feels really bad about lying about the rape, so bad she writes a book and confesses. The end.
Movie Value: $0.50Well not quite. Along the way, McAvoy's life is flushed down the toilet, and both he and Celia die before Briony is able to tell the truth and clear his name. I'm pretty sure he dies during the war somehow and Celia drowns in a subway or something, but by then I was honestly just trying to get through this while trying to convince my wife I was still interested. By then, however, she too was waiting for the credit crawl, I found out later.
As a movie buff, I'm a bit unclear where the Oscar™ nomination came from. Boring plot aside, the performances were all well done, which perhaps explains academy recognition, but given the field of 2007 movies, one can't help but wonder if no other substitute could've been found.