Stately and majestic but in a decidedly lackluster way, Joe Wright’s Atonement is a lushly shot, proficiently performed, and largely stultifying period piece that invites only mild, detached admiration. Based on Ian McEwan’s acclaimed novel (which I have not read), Wright’s film concerns the 1935 affair between wealthy Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley) and the son of her household’s maid, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), a relationship torn asunder by Cecilia’s younger sister, aspiring writer Briony (Saoirse Ronan). Briony, a creator of fictions, concocts a dastardly lie that banishes Robbie from Cecilia’s arms and, eventually, straight into WWII, where the story – after an effectively intriguing, if somewhat arid, set-up – soon flounders. Pivoting around Wright’s hollow, look-at-me extended tracking shot along the soldier-populated shores of Dunkirk, Robbie’s military service is the film’s most dreary, sterile sequence, though just about everything here has been carefully polished to within an inch of its existence. Knightley and McAvoy’s turns are heartfelt yet colorless, in part because Wright (Pride & Prejudice) spends so much effort cultivating a grand scope and atmosphere that he neglects to properly humanize the plight of his protagonists or piercingly convey his material’s focus on the way art helps us grapple with life. The central romantic tragedy, and older Briony’s (Romola Garai) tortured attempts to make reparations for her crime, are dutifully depicted but missing that vital spark of thorny, fervent, wild emotion, eventually leaving Atonement a would-be epic that feels as if it were trapped under a pane of glass.