CLASSIC MOVIE SCENES #3 – ATONEMENT— “On Dunkirk Beach!”
Directed by: Joe Wright
Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster
Screenplay by: Christopher Hampton – Based on: Atonement by Ian McEwan
Starring: James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai, Vanessa Redgrave
Music by: Dario Marianelli
Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey
Release date: 7 September 2007 (United Kingdom)
Joe Wright’s majestic directorial adaptation of Ian McEwan’s tragic romantic war story is a poignant study of petty revenge and class conflict. The scene on Dunkirk beach is the standout cinematic moment of the film as James McEvoy’s weakened soldier, Robbie Turner, flanked by compatriots portrayed by Daniel Mays and Nonso Anonzie, vainly attempts to find a way off the beach.
The scene is shown in one long five minute take and involves a certain beautiful, poetic and brutal chaos. Dario Marianelli’s soaring score and a male choir on the beach accompany images of: naked men skinny-dipping, horses being shot, crushed boats, blazing fires, spinning carousels and big wheels; as trapped soldiers remain in peril from bombs overhead.
Aside from the cinematic and technical achievement on display the emotional impact is surreal, heartfelt and haunting. The power from the film’s denouement when we discover much of the episode has been filtered through Saoirse Ronan’s unreliable narration makes the scene all the more heart-breaking.