The score of Atonement haunts me. Its theme—romantic but foreboding, emotional but restrained—is undergirded throughout by the percussive beat of a typewriter: keys clicking, typebars striking paper, carriage shuttling home. At first, the effect might seem mannered, even over-literal, but it sets a mood of disquiet, and as the film unfolds, its meaning becomes apparent.
That orchestration is beautifully characteristic of the movie’s artistry. The aesthetic choices often call attention to themselves—we notice the painterly framing, the slippery sense of perspective, the evocative set pieces—but none of those choices is arbitrary, existing solely for its own sake. Rather, each lends itself to the storytelling to create a strikingly cinematic realization of novelist Ian McEwan’s literary prowess.