Tuesday, December 30

REVIEW: The Imitation Game

Directed by Morten Tyldum
2014 Historical Drama
1 hour 54 minutes
From The Weinstein Company

Benedict Cumberbatch
Keira Knightley
Matthew Goode
Matthew Beard
Allen Leech
Mark Strong
Charles Dance
Rory Kinnear
Steven Waddington

In this bumper crop of Oscar hopefuls I have been reviewing, it's such a pleasure to give a film my highest rating of four stars.  I haven't felt this surge of excitement since my review of The Theory of Everything.  And leave it to merry olde England to be the country to pull off such praise.  I am not at all surprised.

Despite some of the glowing press on this movie, I wasn't sure I would like it.  My fears came out of wondering whether I was going to spend a couple of hours watching some accountant work out math problems.  But I gotta say this film completely held my interest from beginning to end and I'm betting it would do the same for most of you.

The Imitation Game is about Alan Turing (1912-1954), the British mathematician, cryptologist and logician who, along with four cohorts, cracked the German Enigma Code that led to the Allies winning World War II.  Those four cohorts were likely to say that without Turing, it may not have happened.  His Turing Machine is said to be the first computer.  Since Turing had an actual German Enigma machine but one that could not provide him with the ability to decode it, he decided to build his own machine (computer) to do the job.  Despite the naysayers that were his coworkers and those above him, Turing hung in there until the job was finally achieved.  This accomplishment had a be careful what you wish for component to it which made the ending of the film all the more interesting and dramatic.

Considered a genius all his life, he answered a secret call to work on the Enigma project.  He interviews with a commander who takes a dim view of the confident Turing and not only does that view not change, it escalates in the months to come.  At one point when a dismayed Turing realizes others are going to be working on the project with him, he says he wants to be in charge.  The commander refuses and Turing asks who his boss is.  When the commander says Winston Churchill, Turing writes to the prime minister and gets his way. 

The project gets bogged down while all the members of the team get to know one another.  Turing is again chagrined when a woman is hired but soon not only changes his tune but soon regards her as his most valued coworker.  It's lovely watching the transition of this team being against Turing to defending him against all odds.  When it looks as if the project may completely full apart, Turing and gang are comforted by the fact that an MI6 top dog stands by them at seemingly every move.

While the film mainly deals with the Enigma project, there are two other pieces and they both deal with homosexuality.  Turing was gay and in a time when it was illegal in England.  His early school life with its gay awakenings are intercut throughout and by the end of the film we see how the subject is dealt with as others on the project become aware of it.

There has been criticism that the gay part has been soft-pedalled, handled too flimsily with kid gloves.  I attended half expecting that the filmmakers would pass over the gay parts entirely but this isn't even close to the truth.  To me the truth is that this isn't a film about being gay so why even consider for a moment that it should be the focus.  It was written into the work quite appropriately.  Furthermore, in the film's final scenes and written updates before the end credits, we not only hear about his gayness in more detail but I found it particularly painful to watch.

Based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrews Hodges with a screenplay by Graham Moore, there is some sumptuously rich dialogue which I dearly loved.  Some have complained about the structure of the film but again, I don't relate to this criticism.  There was a lot to take in and director Tyldum's deliberate pacing made it all play out quite nicely. For those critical of the workshop scenes, listening to the jargon of a mathematician/cryptologist/logician, you wanted more scientific terms?  No thanks.  You folks need to take a college course and leave moviemaking to others. 

I suspect Cumberbatch came to mind because of his astute and logical portrayal in the BBCs Sherlock and he certainly locks into this role with a combustible passion.  Was Turing a bit autistic?  Many of Cumberbatch's mannerisms brought that to mind.  While there is a glowing supporting cast, this film is all Cumberbatch.  Of course, the role has Oscar nomination written all over it.

Never a member of the Keira Knightley fan club, I am amused that when she joins a film where she is not the lead, where the action does not center around her character, I not only immensely enjoyed her but found her to be perfectly cast.  Frankly, I'm surprised she agreed to do this film, but it was a wise career choice that she did.

I have long been a member of Matthew Goode's fan club and it was great to see him again, but he's not given all that much to do.  Fans of Downtown Abbey may get a kick out of seeing Allen Leech (who plays the chauffeur who married into the family).  Mark Strong and Charles Dance, as the MI6 honcho and military commander, respectively, register with their strong presences... both perfectly cast.

The real Alan Turing

Let's get back to The Theory of Everything to which The Imitation Game will inevitably be compared.  Both are British productions (oh, are the BAFTA awards gonna be fun), both about Brits who contributed greatly to society and both starring actors who are just now gaining strong footholds in the industry (Eddie Redmayne playing Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything).

So thanks, UK, you come through again.  You always do.

Movie Review

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed watching this film. Totally worth my time.