Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2014 Awards Circuit: The Imitation Game Review

2014 Awards Circuit: The Imitation Review
The 2014 Award Circuit will be a collection of reviews of films that are in some kind of award runnings within the months of January through March. Not only will this prepare me for the big night (AKA Oscar Night), but it will also allow me to catch up with some of the critically acclaimed films I missed out on in 2014. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy watching and writing them.
My older brother has always seen the world through its numbers. He is a master of solving problems, beating games and completing puzzles. This usually followed by an exhaustive explanation of how he got there and why. Sometimes I wish I could see certain things the way he does, being able to analyze anything through its numerical value. It is a skill set I have never been good at, nor have I ever been particularly fond of. I bring this up because if my brother hasn't seen "The Imitation Game" yet, then I have a feeling it will end up being his favorite film of all time.
The story of Alan Turning is a marvelous one and quite remarkable. Alan Turning was a brilliant mathematician who got to work on a top secret project for the British government. The mission was to crack the enigma code that Nazi's created, a code to relay information back and forth which at the time, was said to be impossible to crack. Alan Turning saw how slow the process would be to look through so much German code, so he wanted to jump ahead and create a machine which would do the reading for them in a much rapid manner. With the help of a reluctant group of peers, and due to a deceptive upbringing for being secretly homosexual, Turning was able to complete the machine and he and his group was instrumental to the fall of Nazi Germany.
"The Imitation Game" has a lot going for it. First, it is a spectacular biopic piece, an almost perfect example of choosing a concentrated story to focus on and then doing so in an creative, grounded style. Turning's story is unique and we are able to understand that uniqueness. For audience members wanted a little more empathy, the film also focuses on the angle of Turning's private life and how he was homosexual. I like how the movie doesn't try to shove a certain agenda down the audience's throat, but merely shows us what it was like for a homosexual to grow up and lead a life in 1940's England, where it was strictly forbidden to lead that type of lifestyle. Then there is a mini-spy thriller right at the end, as Turning tries to decipher which of his colleagues maybe a spy for the Soviets. That is a lot of thematic meat to tackle in one movie, and I give director Morten Tyldum vast credit for being able to make it look easy. There is a laid-back flow to the movie that forces the film to work. The film never feels urgent, never feels like it needs to move forward. Nor is it a movie that really outstays its welcome.
Benedict Cumberbatch brings life to this Alan Turning and he is up for an Academy Award for his work. Now that I have seen all five of this years candidate's in action, I can say with honesty and pride that Cumberbatch deserves the nomination. This was a great year for lead actors, and Cumberbatch gives one of the very best performances of his career. This is totally unlike any character we have seen Cumberbatch play before. He is arrogant, he is isolated, he wouldn't know a joke if it bit him in the ass, he's awkward but he has a brilliant mind. That is a wide range of emotions to pull from and I love how Cumberbatch makes sure that we feel each of them as well. I feel like this has been a long time coming for Cumberbatch and it is stunning work indeed.
The rest of the cast is pretty solid too though, displaying a fine ensemble of wonderful British actors. It is pretty hard to go wrong with people like Matthew Goode, Mark Strong or Charles Dance, all of whom give powerful performances. Then there is Keira Knightley, someone who I haven't been totally in love with since I saw her in grade for "Pirates of the Carribbean." Much like Cumberbatch though, she has hit a career-high in this movie, playing the only woman on Turning's team and also being one of the most brilliant. (This was also another plot point that wasn't severely beaten over our heads.) It is incredible work, work I never imagined I'd see from her and she should be proud of what she has accomplished.
With lush cinematography and an engaging score, it is hard to argue against "The Imitation Game." All of the actors are at their best here, and the story may seem dense on paper, but it is effortlessly breath-taking onscreen. I'll be interested to see how this one fares in a couple of weeks now that I have had the chance to see it.

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