Adapting a brilliant, broodingly introspective novel into a movie is risky business, but critics say Atonement—based on Ian McEwan's chronicle of the effects of a young girl's lie on an English family—gets it surprisingly right. "In the almost spookily capable hands of 34-year-old director Joe Wright, the film version of Atonement has achieved that to which every literary adaptation should aspire," writes Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone calls the film smart, emotional, and sexy. "Stuffy? Not a bit. This potently erotic spellbinder is not your father's period piece," he writes. AO Scott of the New York Times breaks ranks and calls the film "an almost classical example of how pointless, how diminishing, the transmutation of literature into film can be."