Atonement may magnetically attract lovers of romantic movies. However, the movie might make some people cringe mostly because of its storyline's structure. Still, Atonement (2007) is a marvellous gem driven by characters that sustain our interest.
The movie's main problem is mostly at the beginning which progresses as slowly as a novel. In other words, the pace is slow because the story takes too much time to introduce us to the characters and what they intend to do. With that said, you could tell that the envy to push the "fast forward" button can be seen as an option since the beginning really lacks concision in its attempt to set the story's tone.
However, when the action does begin, director Joe Hampton (Pride & Prejudice) hopefully manages to use Atonement's slow pace at his advantage. The approach used to develop the characters is based on showing a specific scene through different point of views, namely that of either Cecilia, Robbie and Briony. It might be odd and slow as an approach, but it certainly has an obvious advantage: it allows us to have closer look on each of the three main characters' (Cecilia, Robbie and Briony) feelings and inner thoughts. As a result of that, Atonement is one of those movie that you won't forget because of its larger-than-life characters that give a good playground for the actors who play them.
With that said, Atonement also relies on implicit suggestions to make the story progress. If we look at the brilliant way the characters are psychologically depicted (i.e. through some silence and the expression of their eyes), it reminds us of some Asian movies, just like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In short, the amazing ambiguity of the characters gives us an interesting dramatic twist and we always want to know more about them.
Nevertheless, leaving so much ambiguity in a movie is a double-edged knife, in a manner of speaking. While the story is relatively easy to understand, Atonement unfortunately ends (I'm not talking about the final scene, mind you) with some unanswered questions about the characters' own evolution. For instance, what really motivates Briony to accuse Robbie of doing a crime that he didn't commit (we only have a part of the answer)? How should we understand the relation between Paul and Lola? These are questions that are the result of a lack of hints that could have helped anybody to truly have their questions answered.
Despite having an irksome ambiguity that doesn't do any service to it, Atonement is obviously close to be a masterpiece because. This is because director Joe Wright is brilliant when it comes to explicitly render the characters' feelings through implicit suggestions. Obviously, Atonement is definitely a movie beautifully rendered by the performance of James MacAvoy (The Last King of Scotland), as Robbie, and Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice), as Cecilia, in particular. In addition to that, lovers of romantic movies will be elated to see how good is the chemistry between these two actors.