The Imitation Game (2014)
Seeing how long ago this film released in theaters serves to remind me how quickly time passes us by. I vividly remember reading about this one around the web and favorite blog, discovering Benedict Cumberbatch (a.k.a. Sherlock Holmes) led the cast, and being giddy with a must-see “need” to watch it. Well, clearly that didn’t pan out. Until quite recently (a month or so ago), I’d still not seen this one. Fortunately, in my opinion, the wait was worth it.
Winning World War II looks bleak, and even for the cleverest of minds, beating the Germans seems improbable. This is why the intelligence community is prepared to put together a team of brilliant minds to do the impossible: break the German’s code. Their top recruit is mathematician, Alan Turing (Cumberbatch), a brilliant man ready to give his all to the top secret project. Only Alan sees the solution to the codes as being something very different than those who work alongside him. Instead of the painstaking methods they use, Alan sees a mechanical machine being the answer, and much to the resentment of his collogues, he sets about building it.
When his plan begins sounds implausible, MI6 questions his methods, but with the support of Churchill despite the suspicion of his boss, Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) hindering him, he succeeds in moving forward.
As a man unable to connect with the world around him – and someone who has a very dangerous secret, Alan’s colleague’s resent the methods of his work. They see what he’s doing as insignificant while they are left keeping up the real work. But as Alan persists to a point of madness, each of them, including Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), and with the constant support of his best friend and confidant, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), support what Alan is doing. But as it turns out, even when he convinces those of his machine's significance, Alan’s most harrowing challenges have yet to find him.
TV REVIEW | The Bletchley Circle, Series One (2012)
It’s rare that I run across a film that I leave feeling as if it’s an all-encompassing, well-done production. Such was the case with The Imitation Game. From the moment it opens on Benedict’s voiceover (which is also him recounting the story for us, so it starts at a later point and returns to “how it all began”) to the brilliant cast, everything inside this BBC production is proof of what an exceptional drama looks like. There’s even something about the voiceover (which is likely more impressive because of who is delivering those lines) in those opening moments that “sets the tone” for the rest of the film; it’s an enigma just like the code Alan is recruited to break.
A good script can be undermined by a bad cast, and vice versa. Fortunately, The Imitation Game suffers no such fate. The cast is dynamite. From the supporting cast which also includes Mark Strong (A&E’s Emma) and Allen Leech (Downton Abbey) to the leads, there’s no weak link among them. Since the last few roles I’ve seen her take on haven’t been winners (in my opinion), it was lovely to see Keira return to a complex, well-rounded character who was easily one of the most liked and important in this story. Then there was Alan. His story is, undoubtedly, at the crux of this film. It’s through his story that we feel that sense of awe, inspiration and eventually, some sense of injustice. His sacrifices and incredible mind saved countless lives, and undoubtedly helped the war effort in ways we couldn’t imagine. Naturally, Cumberbatch plays this role brilliantly, delivering a multi-dimensional performance that’s mesmerizing.
There was some question, prior to the release of this film, about the direction the script travelled. Filmmakers chose to focus more on the obsessive importance Alan’s work was to him than that of his social life. I thought that was a wise decision. It bolstered the film without sacrificing the meaning Alan’s work and life had during the war effort. I also found the attachment between Joan and Alan a particularly interesting distraction. There is some controversy surrounding how the writer’s portray their relationship, but from the little I’ve read of the historical accuracy of it (whether or not the snippets I’ve read are true, I don’t know), it seems a fair depiction of an unexpected friendship that was, in its own way, as beautifully loving as it was bittersweet.
Fans of films like The King’s Speech or Benedict Cumberbatch as an actor (that's reason enough, right?) will be missing out if they skip over this one. Of course, it’s more than just its cast though I'd be lying if I didn't say it's the cast that helps make this film the success it is. Not to mention, as an aside, it’s also fascinating to see, essentially, the first computer being imagined and constructed. Nominated for a handful of Oscars (and winning one), it’s not hard to concede the brilliance of this film with the buzz it created. Clocking in at just under two hours, nothing ever lags nor does the film feel like an advocate for anything other than the story it’s here to impart. This was a surprise to me, and helped make the experience that unfolded all the more poignant.
CONTENT: Alan was a homosexual, so there are some references to his sexual orientation and brief flashbacks to his childhood school days where he was friendly with one of his classmates (notes is as far as it goes). During these flashbacks, there is some bullying present (shoving someone beneath floorboards), and there might be the common sprinkling of minor profanity. The film is rated PG13.