Universal acclaim - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 36
  2. Negative: 0 out of 36
Watch On
  1. An unforgettable examination of a host of dark impulses.
  2. The result is a film that has "Masterpiece Theatre" production values but not an ounce of dust upon it.
  3. 100
    Through unexpected and cathartic twists, this movie leaves you with atonement and redemption.
  4. 100
    The interpretation is so painstaking and moving that almost every moment delivers a shuddering jolt to the head and the heart.
  5. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    No two-hour film could ever capture all the riches of McEwan's masterly novel. But Wright and Hampton's Atonement comes tantalizingly close, while adding sensual delights all its own.
  6. 100
    Nothing in Joe Wright's screen version of Ian McEwan's dense, internalized 2001 novel of secrets and lies should really work, but damn near everything does. It's some kind of miracle. Written, directed and acted to perfection, Atonement sweeps you up on waves of humor, heartbreak and ravishing romance.
  7. Reviewed by: Derek Elley
    Rarely has a book sprung so vividly to life, but also worked so enthrallingly in pure movie terms, as with Atonement, Brit helmer Joe Wright’s smart, dazzlingly upholstered adaptation of Ian McEwan’s celebrated 2001 novel.
  8. Reviewed by: Helen O'Hara
    Gorgeous cinematography, a lilting score and near-faultless performances, under Wright’s assured direction, make this the first contender for next year’s Best Picture Oscar.
  9. 100
    Nothing comes easily in Atonement, especially its ending, which, both happy and tragic, is as wrenching as it is genuinely satisfying. How fitting, somehow, that a novel so devoted to the precision and passionate love of language be captured in a film that is simply too exquisite for words.
  10. A singular achievement -- romantic, sensuous, intelligent and finally shattering in its sweep and thematic complexity.
  11. 100
    Atonement is that rare combo: a good movie based on a good book.
  12. 100
    This is one of the year's best films, a certain best picture nominee.
  13. 100
    What might seem like showing off in another movie is dazzling storytelling here, packing in an hour's worth of human misery.
  14. 100
    This is one of the few adaptations that gives a splendid novel the film it deserves.
  15. 91
    The generous, sharp performances, especially Garai's, deepen the story's emotional impact, as does Wright's assured, frequently astounding direction.
  16. With compelling and charismatic performances by Keira Knightley and James McAvoy as the lovers, and a stunning contribution from Romola Garai as their remorseful nemesis, the film goes directly to "The English Patient" territory and might also expect rapturous audiences and major awards.
  17. 90
    May not hit every note perfectly, but the picture they've come up with is full-bodied and intelligent.
  18. It’s not quite as brutalizing as McEwan’s brilliant source novel – it bears too much of a Great Art buff – but it ravishes nonetheless in its grand exploration of the sins of the daughter and a lifetime spent making reparations.
  19. 88
    Atonement is effective at getting under the skin, and some audience members won't like that.
  20. Hampton and Wright have been more than sensible when it comes to Atonement. They’ve responded intuitively to a tale that is half art and half potboiler, like so many stories worth telling.
  21. In the end, Atonement sorts truth from fiction as it delivers a shattering kick to the solar plexus.
  22. Vanessa Redgrave, as the adult Briony, appears at the very end in a monologue that rounds out the film with heartbreaking force.
  23. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    The movie never goes as deep as the novel (no movie could), but it's a worthy approximation: a Merchant-Ivory movie that turns in on itself with a lucid and painful sigh.
  24. In the end -- an ending of such power and narrative originality (in both book and movie) that those who know it ought never breathe a word to those who don't.
  25. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    The settings are handsome, the cinematography accomplished, the performances first-rate.
  26. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    For the most part, the result is a smashing success, filled with great performances and exquisite production design. But those final moments, in which the true nature of the story is revealed, are an unmitigated disaster.
  27. It's an imperfect movie that serves as a perfect reminder of what the movies do best.
  28. It is an amazing story, filled with quiet moments of profundity and more surprises than you could imagine.
  29. 75
    A handsome film, an earnest film, a film with taste in music and photography and a real sense of intelligence. But too often it feels like an exercise. And even when you're impressed by it, you know you're being played.
  30. Atonement works reasonably well as a tragic romance, but that sting is dulled. As a book, it was a blow to the head; as a movie, it’s an adaptation of a book.
  31. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    Wright wouldn't recognize unobtrusive if it tapped him on the nose--he's cross- pollinated the first half of Atonement into an Oscar-buzzy brew of Masterpiece Theatre and "Upstairs, Downstairs," with the wild English countryside tamed into an artfully lit fairy glade, and into just enough of a bodice-ripper to reel in the youth market. And not a bad one at that.
  32. The characters are not hugely compelling, the performances never completely grab us, and much of the story, while visually arresting, is dramatically tedious.
  33. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    The movie version feels like a stately, but watered down, episode of "Masterpiece Theatre" fused with "The English Patient."
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 441 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 92 out of 160
  2. Negative: 37 out of 160
  1. DaveC.
    Nov 20, 2008
    It was horrible. It was insanely slow and even more boring. Waste of time and money.
  2. LuísD.
    Jan 23, 2008
    Atonement is a wonderful film which shows an incresing story of love and subsequent tragedy and a sad mixture of feelings that makes us sad Atonement is a wonderful film which shows an incresing story of love and subsequent tragedy and a sad mixture of feelings that makes us sad and horrified for the untimely ending of the story. For those who had read Ian McEwan's book, the film appears as a wonderfully faithful adaptation of the book which is able to surprise and to touch those of read it and those who didn't and in the end we are left with this question: if it had happened to us, could we bring ourselves to forgive someone like Briony Tallis? Is it possible to find the titular Atonement after all those years? Acting-wise, Keira Knightley, James McAvoy and Vanessa Redgrave receive my praise as Cecilia Tallis, Robbie Turner and a 70-year-old penitent Briony Tallis. Full Review »
  3. ds
    Jan 1, 2008
    I don't think I have ever disagreed more with the critics. The basic story is a tawdry, contrived sequence of events, intended to be I don't think I have ever disagreed more with the critics. The basic story is a tawdry, contrived sequence of events, intended to be tragic, but only evoked irritation in this viewer. I was especially annoyed by the prolonged and ultimately pointless WWII portion of the story. The surprise ending only served to extend the tedium. The 'atonement' seems tacked on and empty. Maybe that was the point? The cinematography is excellent, but seems too artistic for the story. At times the soundtrack was a bit ham-handed. Someone sure fell in love with the oh-so-clever sound of typewriter keys. Most of the acting was at least adequate. James McAvoy does a great job, but Kiera Knightly seems miscast. Overall, I found this movie was very disappointing. Full Review »