Ian McEwan’s novel is not an easy one to adapt to film. Sure, it’s got lots of high drama, of the sorts that usually lend themselves to the medium—World war! Tragic death! Star-crossed lovers! Hot sex! Class conflict! Rape! Delirium!—and yes, it does have an unusually high pedigree, being both a very popular and very good novel.
It’s also got a pretty idiosyncratic narrative structure which keeps a reader on his or her toes, showing the same events from different perspectives, and including a twisty shift or two which, on film, can be incredibly jarring, because the medium requires the attention of your ears and eyes to a higher degree than prose. That is, a reader is in much more control of how what they’re experiencing is perceived, while a film-viewer is at the mercy of the film itself to a greater degree when it comes to the sight and sound of things.
And man, there’s a shift in here that might knock you right out of your seat, if not the film itself for a moment.
Director Joe Wright is up to the challenge of difficult-to-succeed-at-adaptations-of-novels, of course, coming off the thoroughly charming 2005 Pride & Prejudice, the top of the heap of adaptations of that perennially popular British novel.