Rated 4.0

Part of what’s both deceptive and intriguing in Atonement is a matter of historical sprawl—the story’s major phases occur on a lush English estate in 1935, when the key characters are early teens and very young adults, and in 1939-40, when all of them are swept up in the early stages of World War II and in the gloom of the Allied retreat at Dunkirk, in particular. Reassessment and conflicting vantage points are recurring elements of the tale, most centrally with the ominously impressionable Briony, who is 13 in 1935 and already showing a flair for dramatic fiction and authorship. But the more conspicuous part of the film plays out as a fitfully convoluted mixture of love story and war epic, with Briony’s older sister Cecelia (Keira Knightley) and handsome, talented Robbie (Joe McAvoy), the son of the family’s cleaning woman, as doggedly heroic figures enduring trials and tribulations both large and small.