为读懂这篇影评，特意来看了这部片子，A. O. Scott还是笔酣老道，指摘非常到位，电影前三分之一甚为精彩，而后面则支离破碎，结构凌乱，表面似乎忠实了原著，实则没有挖掘出原作所蕴含的道德寓意。
Lies, Guilt, Stiff Upper Lips
A. O. Scott
（New York Times Dec. 2007）
Joe Wright’s “Atonement” begins in the endlessly photogenic, thematically pregnant interwar period. The setting is a rambling old British country estate where trim dinner jackets and shimmering silk dresses are worn; cigarettes are smoked with sharp inhalations that create perfect concavities of cheekbone; and the air is thick with class tension and sexual anxiety. Heavy clouds are gathering on the geopolitical horizon, which lends a special poignancy to the domestic comings and goings. This charged, hardly unfamiliar atmosphere provides, in the first section of the film, some decent, suspenseful fun, a rush of incident and implication. Boxy cars rolling up the drive; whispers of scandal and family secrets; coitus interruptus in the library, all set to the implacable rhythm of typewriter keys.
Two characters make significant use of a typewriter — one is an aspiring playwright, the other a yearning rural swain — but the sound of the machine is co-opted by Dario Marianelli, who wrote the movie’s score and who conjoins the clack-clacking of mechanical composition with the steady plink of a repeated piano note. At a climactic moment Brenda Blethyn, who can be as subtle an actress as Mr. Marianelli is a composer, leaps screaming from the darkness and begins beating on the hood of a car with an umbrella, a tocsin that joins the plink and the clack in a small symphony of literal-minded irrelevance.
That pretty much describes the rest of “Atonement,” piously rendered by the screenwriter Christopher Hampton from Ian McEwan’s novel. This is not a bad literary adaptation; it is too handsomely shot and Britishly acted to warrant such strong condemnation. “Atonement” is, instead, an almost classical example of how pointless, how diminishing, the transmutation of literature into film can be. The respect that Mr. Wright and Mr. Hampton show to Mr. McEwan is no doubt gratifying to him, but it is fatal to their own project.
Unlike Mr. Wright’s brisk, romantic film version of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” “Atonement” fails to be anything more than a decorous, heavily decorated and ultimately superficial reading of the book on which it is based. Mr. McEwan’s prose pulls you in immediately and drags you through an intricate, unsettling story, releasing you in a shaken, wrung-out state. The film, after a tantalizing start, sputters to a halt in a welter of grandiose imagery and hurtling montage.
Keira Knightley, who also starred in “Pride and Prejudice,” plays Cecilia Tallis, a rich girl who discovers she is loved by and in love with Robbie (James McAvoy), the son of one of her family’s servants. Their furtive, ardent courtship is observed by Cecilia’s younger sister, Briony (played at 13 by the remarkably poised Saoirse Ronan — pronounced SEER-Sha), whose combination of precocity and confusion precipitates a household catastrophe.
A bigger one arrives in the form of World War II, and it is here, in the transition from hothouse psychodrama to historical pseudo-epic, that “Atonement” runs aground, losing dramatic coherence and intellectual focus. Romola Garai has taken over the role of Briony (in a coda, she will age gracefully into Vanessa Redgrave), who works as a nurse in London. Cecilia, now estranged from the family, does similar duty, and Robbie stumbles toward the beach at Dunkirk.
There are some powerful images — of scared and tired soldiers in France, of bloody wounds and shattered limbs in London — but the film’s treatment of the war has a detached, secondhand feeling. And even the most impressive sequences have an empty, arty virtuosity. The impression left by a long, complicated battlefield tracking shot is pretty much “Wow, that’s quite a tracking shot,” when it should be “My God, what a horrible experience that must have been.”
The main casualty of the film’s long, murky middle and end sections is the big moral theme — and also the ingenious formal gimmick — that provides the book with some of its intensity and much of its cachet. As the title suggests, “Atonement” is fundamentally about guilt and the attempt to overcome it, and about the tricky, tragically imperfect power of art to compensate for real-life crimes and misdemeanors.
Without giving too much away, I will say that the power of the story depends on its believability, on the audience’s ability to perceive Robbie and Cecilia in wartime as suffering, flesh-and-blood creatures. Mr. McAvoy and Ms. Knightley sigh and swoon credibly enough, but they are stymied by the inertia of the filmmaking, and by the film’s failure to find a strong connection between the fates of the characters and the ideas and historical events that swirl around them.