Critics Consensus

Atonement features strong performances, brilliant cinematography, and a unique score. Featuring deft performances from James MacAvoy and Keira Knightley, it's a successful adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel.



Total Count: 214


Audience Score

User Ratings: 227,024
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Movie Info

In 1935, 13-year-old fledgling writer Briony Tallis and her family live a life of wealth and privilege in their enormous mansion. On the warmest day of the year, the country estate takes on an unsettling hothouse atmosphere, stoking Briony's vivid imagination. Robbie Turner, the educated son of the family's housekeeper, carries a torch for Briony's headstrong older sister Cecilia. Cecilia, he hopes, has comparable feelings; all it will take is one spark for this relationship to combust. When it does, Briony--who has a crush on Robbie--is compelled to interfere, going so far as accusing Robbie of a crime he did not commit. Cecilia and Robbie declare their love for each other, but he is arrested--and with Briony bearing false witness, the course of three lives is changed forever. Briony continues to seek forgiveness for her childhood misdeed. Through a terrible and courageous act of imagination, she finds the path to her uncertain atonement and to an understanding of the power of enduring love.


James McAvoy
as Robbie Turner
Keira Knightley
as Cecilia Tallis
Saoirse Ronan
as 13-Year-Old Briony Tallis
Brenda Blethyn
as Grace Turner
Romola Garai
as 18-Year-Old Briony
Vanessa Redgrave
as Older Briony
Allie MacKay
as Singing Housemaid
Benedict Cumberbatch
as Paul Marshall
Harriet Walter
as Emily Tallis
Daniel Mays
as Tommy Nettle
Nonso Anozie
as Frank Mace
Felix von Simson
as Pierrot Quincey
Charlie Von Simson
as Jackson Quincey
Leander Deeny
as Police Constable
Alfie Allen
as Danny Hardman
Patrick Kennedy
as Leon Tallis
Michelle Duncan
as Fiona Maguire
Peter Wight
as Police Inspector
Peter McNeil O'Connor
as Police Sergeant
Nick Bagnall
as Solider in Bray Bar #3
Tobias Menzies
as Naval Officer
Anthony Minghella
as Interviewer
Paul Stocker
as Crying Soldier
Alex Noodle
as Solitary Sunbather
Roger Evans
as Beach Soldier
Bronson Webb
as Beach Soldier
Ian Bonar
as Beach Soldier
Oliver Gilbert
as Beach Soldier
Jamie Beamish
as Soldier in Bray Bar
Johnny Harris
as Soldier in Bray Bar
Billy Seymour
as Soldier in Bray Bar
Neil Maskell
as Soldier in Bray Bar
Paul Harper
as Soldier With Ukeleke
Gina McKee
as Sister Drummond
Charlie Banks
as Probationary Nurse
Madeleine Crowe
as Probationary Nurse
Scarlett Dalton
as Probationary Nurse
Katy Lawrence
as Probationary Nurse
Jade Moulla
as Probationary Nurse
Georgia Oakley
as Probationary Nurse
Alice Orr-Ewing
as Probationary Nurse
Catherine Philps
as Probationary Nurse
Bryony Reiss
as Probationary Nurse
Sarah Shaul
as Probationary Nurse
Anna Singleton
as Probationary Nurse
Emily Thomson
as Probationary Nurse
Kelly Scott
as Hospital Admin Assistant
Mark Holgate
as Soldier at Hospital Entrance
Ryan Kiggell
as Registrar
Vivienne Gibbs
as Staff Nurse
Matthew Forest
as Second Soldier at Hospital Entrance
Richard Stacey
as Injured Sergeant
Jay Quinn
as Soldier Who Looks Like Robbie
Jérémie Renier
as Luc Cornet
Jack Harcourt
as Pierrot, Aged 14
Ben Harcourt
as Jackson, Aged 14
Tilly Vosburgh
as Mother of Evacuees
Angel Witney
as Evacuee Child
Bonnie Witney
as Evacuee Child
Webb. Bem
as Evacuee Child
Wendy Nottingham
as Mrs. Jarvis
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News & Interviews for Atonement

Critic Reviews for Atonement

All Critics (214) | Top Critics (53) | Fresh (178) | Rotten (36)

  • Joe Wright directs Atonement with an eye to framing each performance with spectacularly vivid images, including a genuinely breathtaking tracking shot on the bloody, wreckage-strewn beach at Dunkirk.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Bob Mondello
    Top Critic
  • Atonement is a film out of balance, nimble enough in its first half but oddly scattered and ungainly once it leaves the grounds of the Tallis estate.

    Sep 22, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Sweeping, showy, and stiff, Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's pedigreed bestseller traffics in florid staging and callow emotions.

    Jan 29, 2008 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…
  • Atonement's extraordinary qualities outweigh any quibbles.

    Jan 18, 2008 | Rating: 4/6

    David Fear

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • One of the few adaptations that gives a novel the film it deserves.

    Jan 14, 2008 | Rating: 3.5/4

    Kenneth Turan

    Top Critic
  • Somehow the intensity of McEwan's voice hasn't survived and once we move beyond the magic of that lost summer's day, the film becomes a strangely cool and cerebral experience.

    Dec 21, 2007 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Atonement

  • Sep 27, 2015
    Take away the acclaim and Atonement works fine as a drama. The film looks as good as the actors. The various situations are somewhat interesting, but the film never comes together or feels completed at the end. The war scenes do almost nothing for the story, which seems to have no main character. But overall, Atonement is fine, I just didn't find it to merit any awards.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 07, 2014
    A romance drama that shifts from joy to chaos thanks to a misunderstanding from a little girl, told in a unique musical score of typewriting sounds. It'll leave you pitiful towards all three main characters.
    Max G Super Reviewer
  • Jun 18, 2013
    Made me feel horribly sad, and a bit nauseous.
    vieras e Super Reviewer
  • Jan 11, 2013
    Joe Wright's 'Atonement' has a lot of positive things going for it, but none more brilliant and substantial than the film's cinematography and visuals. This includes, but is not limited to, a 5 minute tracking shot that never cuts away. It's pure, unadulterated filmmaking that we see less and less of. Not only filled with magnificent visuals, but each of the three leads fills their roles with great intensity and pathos, really creating something out of nothing when it comes to the script. The story feels a little blown out of proportion and the pace a little slow at times, but Wright makes sure it doesn't disappoint his audience. 'Atonement' does not have an astonishingly great story to tell, but its technical brilliance cannot be denied.
    Kase V Super Reviewer

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