I was quite irritated with the clumsy way Atonement director Joe Wright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton adapted the already problematic conclusion of Ian McEwan's novel. But Matt Zoller Seitz, I think it's fair to say, is furious:
Atonement, Joe Wright's version of Ian McEwan's novel, is visually snappy but
emotionally inert, and it distorts the novel's much talked-about,
already problematic, extra-narrative twist so profoundly that it left
me aghast. I don't normally think it necessary to compare and contrast
a film and its literary source; films are one thing, novels another.
But when the movie leaves such a nasty aftertaste, it's worth
consulting the original to see what went wrong. Here, the problem is,
quite simply, Hollywood values replacing the novel's bitter irony,
which was rather cheap and manipulative in its way, but still vastly
preferable to the turd pudding that Wright and his screenwriter, Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liasons), serve up in the movie's closing moments.
Those unafraid of spoilers can read his brief in full here.