Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - February, 2010


"Atonement" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle



Atonement opens on a wealthy British estate in 1935.  Sisters Cecilia and Briony (Ronan) are wiling away the summer and playing host to three visiting children.  Briony enjoys writing and has just finished a play for them all to act in.  Cecilia, unbeknownst to anyone, is in love with the housekeeper’s son Robby (McAvoy).  Briony of course has a crush on him and when she catches them having an intimate moment in the library, she is devastated.  Later that evening, her friend Lola is raped by one of the other guests.  Consumed by jealousy, she blames Robby for the crime and he is promptly arrested.  This of course irreparably changes the lives of everyone in her family.  Once the war breaks out, Robby enlists in the infantry to get out of jail.  Cecilia and Briony, now estranged, become nurses.  Eventually, Briony tries to atone for her misdeeds.  I won’t spoil the end by telling you how, but suffice it to say she finds a unique and touching solution.


  • Universal
  • 2007, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 3 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan, Vanessa Redgrave
  • Directed by Joe Wright
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  Yes
  • Sex:  Brief
  • Language: Strong


This is a tragic love story wrapped in a sometimes difficult to watch film.  The plot can be hard to follow at times.  There are many non-linear sections where the same scene is retold from a different perspective.  Once you are able to keep up with the flashbacks, things start to fall into place.  The movie is beautifully crafted with excellent performances from Keira Knightly and James McAvoy.  The war sequences are a bit drawn out and extremely depressing which is certainly appropriate.  This is not a feel-good flick by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact it has all the earmarks of a classic tragedy.  It’s certainly worth a rental but I can’t imagine watching it more than once.


Color is used superbly with just the right level of saturation.  The World War II period is depicted very appropriately with muted flesh tones and a warm palette.  The image is very clean with great dimension and rendering of detail.  The only downside to an otherwise reference quality transfer, were the noticeably elevated black levels.  The darkest scenes never quite reached minimum black showing a grayish tone instead.  Shadow detail was good despite this.  Though this isn’t relevant to the quality of the Blu-ray, I really enjoyed the camera work in this film.  There are many scenes where a simple change of focus becomes a pivot point for the action.  The image was a joy to watch.

Audio was clear and detailed with a wide and deep soundstage.  The subwoofer was used to great effect in the war scenes as were the surround channels.  Dialog was crisp and clear, though the chatty British manner of speaking made understanding the characters a challenge at times.  The musical score by Dario Marianelli was nicely done except for his use of the typewriter as a percussion instrument.  I understand the connection to Briony’s character as a writer but rhythmic typing is not music to my ears.


Bonus features include deleted scenes, a making of documentary, a featurette about the adaptation of the original novel and audio commentary by director Joe Wright.