Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Imitation Game

By Sati. Wednesday, January 28, 2015 , , , , , , ,
The subject of greatness comes up during every Oscar season.  It's usually the story of someone who lived in turbulent time and had either a major love affair or contributed to the world in significant way. Those films are usually beautifully shot, scored with great music and feature well known actors who deliver good, often career best work. And they always get criticized for being filled with cliches and that huge Oscar bait sign they should have attached to them.

The Imitation Game is all those things. It tells a story of someone who helped end the second World War, someone who was an outsider and who in the end had a very tragic life. But in spite of being baity and having such cliches as for example a young woman appearing after first 25 minutes to prove she is exceptional and becoming our leading lady to the main man, the film has so much heart and a great story. While The Theory of Everything was unremarkable other than for its score and was kind of a mess from the narrative stand point, the story in The Imitation Game is elegantly told and unlike the film based on Stephen Hawkins' life, it actually moved me.
You may think the movie about the machine that deciphers codes and an awkward man behind it is gonna be boring. But the Imitation Game interwines the scenes of Turing and his team trying to break the code with images of tanks, bombings and civilians hiding in tunnels. There is a sense of responsibility and urgency given to what those people are trying to accomplish and their achievements are never underestimated by the film.

What I really enjoyed here was how many light moments there were - there is a lot of humor in the movie and the chemistry between Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley is absolutely charming. All of that makes the climax of the film more powerful - when a film ends on a happy note after a series of heartbreaking scenes it's all the more joyful. But this is the movie where the end is unjust and the worst thing is that this is what really happened.

Alan Turing's sexuality is showed in a very tasteful and respectful way, which only gives more brutal contrast to the way homosexuality was referred to back then - 'gross indecency'. Initially when I heard the movie didn't have many scenes depicting Turing's sexuality I was worried they tried to sweep it under the rag. But it is all handled really well which only makes the ending hit you harder - after all this man's sexuality had nothing to do with his work or his brilliant mind. And just like that when it comes up in the movie, it's shattering.

Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent in the role. He manages to make Turing feel like an antisocial outsider but he is never really mean even when he is doing and saying things one would consider mean. There is a strange innocence to him and that blind belief and conviction he has that his machine will work is mesmerizing to witness. There is a subplot of Christopher, Turing's childhood friend, and I do not dare to spoil how it relates to the machine Turing is building. But it adds so much to the story.
But it's Keira Knightley who steals the show. I do not think she is an Earth shattering talent but there is unfakable naturalism to her work. In fact, the only times she gave bad performances, were when she was miscast - like in Joe Wright's disastrous Anna Karenina. Other times Knightley is just effortless - this is the kind of quality that sadly often times goes unnoticed. Many people say it's a nothing role and any actress could play it, but it's a horribly misguided and ridiculous opinion.

It's a true art to act natural in front of camera and the entire crew when you are playing someone else and Knightley nails it. She really becomes Joan who is also a wonderfully written character - a brilliant girl who is still caged by what her parents and society expects of her. She is courageous and kind, selfless but also dignified. Joan has many moments when we see how hard it is for women - notice that I wrote is and not was - in the world. No matter how brilliant or gifted we are, this is still men's world and we need to fight every single day for the same things that are just handed to men.
Do not mistake me - Joan is not portrayed as some super hero. There are still many moments when she is crippled by the fact everyone thinks women are lesser than men. There is a terrific little moment when Joan speaks to Mark Strong's character, a powerful man, and he looks at her. He doesn't look at her with anger or malice but Joan still gets timid and looks down, frightened because she feels she should not have spoken up.

The way women are treated in the world is not the prime subject of the film but thanks to the script and Knightley's performance this little moment says so much and is so important. Here we see a brilliant young woman, so bullied by the society that it actually became a part of her reactions, part of herself - the self doubt and shame she should not be feeling.
Another wonderful thing about Joan is that she honestly doesn't care that Turing is a homosexual man. She tells him they are both different from others. She stands by him but to a point - when Alan offends her she strikes back. It's truly a very inspiring and lovely female character.

The supporting cast is also very strong - Matthew Goode is one of the most effortlessly charming and charismatic actors out there and he once again stands out here as one of the men in Turing's team. There's also Matthew Beard as another member of the team, Peter, who provides the movie with a lot of heart and innocence. Downton Abbey's Allen Leech is here too but I thought he was the weak link when it comes to the performances of the mathematicians in Turing's team.
Mark Strong shows up as Stewart Menzies, the chef of MI6 (apparently the basis for James Bond's boss "M") and as usual brings in his A game - his role is not very big but it's Mark Strong - as with Goode, there is simply too much charisma here to forget him after the film is over. Charles Dance plays Turing's superior and he is basically doing his Tywin Lannister thing here, so I was quite disappointed but it's not as if the script gave him many chances to flesh out his character. I also must mention Alex Lawther, who plays young Alan. His final scene is one of the most amazingly acted scenes I've seen in 2014 movies.

The film is not perfect - there is a detective investigation subplot that is given far too much screen time and the whole 'you will be my spy' thing between Turing and Strong's character derailed the movie a bit, to the point I was wondering if we are going to have a copy of A Beautiful Mind on our hands. Thankfully in the end these turned out to be small flaws, given how many great things are in the film.

The movie is gorgeously shot and the score by Alexandre Desplat is him in the top form. Desplat always scores so many movies, sometimes it is evident his work suffers and comes off as quantity over quality. But it's not the case here - the main theme of the film is incredibly memorable and simply beautiful and the entire score adds so much emotion to the scenes.

The Imitation Game may not be the film that will win Oscars and the film that follows the story the way you know it will follow the story, but it is the story you should be familiar with and that should be told - so that never again greatness can fall victim to prejudice.
The Imitation Game (2014, 114 min)
Plot: During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians.
Director: Morten Tyldum
Writers: Andrew Hodges (book), Graham Moore (screenplay)
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode

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34 comments:

  1. This movie has a great cast. I didn't know Charles Dance was in it.

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    1. He is but it's not the best work from him, unfortunately

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  2. Nice review! I sorta preferred The Theory of Everything, even though I felt both movies had weak narratives. For Imitation Game, I felt there was too much going on; the detective narrative mixed with breaking the Enigma Code and then flashback's to Turing's Childhood. The cast is truly wonderful, which is what I think saves the movie. The direction's pace is good but could've been tied together much more strongly.

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    1. Thank you! The Theory of Everything? Ew :P

      The detective subplot was definitely taking way too much screen time in this. It felt out of place too.

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  3. Awesome review Sati! Completely agree about Keira - Benedict is getting all the praise but her performance was great also! :)

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    1. I'm so glad to see so many people liked her work!

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  4. Good review, Margaret! Turing's homosexuality and it's representation in the film was widely discussed. I agree with you that movie had enough of it, not too much, not few. After all, what really mattered was that he was a hero, who saved people's lives. The last scene was just heartbreaking and actually the primary reason I loved Benedict's performance that much.

    I also loved Knightley, who, you know, is my favorite supp. actress this year.

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    1. Thank you! I love that she is your win!

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  5. Great review and I really loved this one. Theory of Everything never sounded appealing, so it seems to have been a good decision reading your quick thoughts on it here to not have seen it. Agree with you on Knightley, she was amazing here.

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    1. So glad you liked Keira in this! Yeah the only thing truly outstanding about TToE was the score

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  6. Excellent review! I love all your praise for Knightley. She was wonderful here, and honestly deserves that Oscar more than her fellow nominees. It's a shame she won't get it. That scene where Turing confesses to her that he's gay and she just goes "so what?" is brilliant.

    This is also a good example of good Oscar bait. I don't mind baity films if they're good. I never have.

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    1. Thank you! If I were to choose the winner out of the nominees it would definitely be Knightley.

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  7. I really had no desire to see this for so long, and then...the more I read about it the more I can't wait to see it. Knightley looks wonderful here, and yes, Goode is ridiculously charming, all the time! Great review.

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    1. His work in Stoker remains one of the sexiest things I've seen in my life btw.

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    2. Hey Drew, you should give this a shot. Besides Cumberbatch, the supporting cast are great, esp. Matthew Goode who lives up to his name every single time :P

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    3. Oh you're gonna love today's RF Ruth :)

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  8. Great review! I didn't really like this as much as I thought I would (I thought the detective subplot was really dull), but I agree, the ensemble is wonderful. I think Cumberbatch was really suited to his character and played him very well, and Knightley was SO GOOD. I loved her in this. Also, I didn't know you hated Anna Karenina! It's actually my favourite Knightley performance :P

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    1. Thank you! Oh no! :P Karenina is an abomination for me. I thought Keira was waaaaay too young for the part and she played the part as if she was an idiot teenager

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  9. Great review Sati! I agree this is the kind of story that I think Oscar likes and it has a lot going for it even if it's more of a by-the-numbers type of biopic. It's a good film but probably not a great one, hence I think I'd give it a 4/5 which is similar to your 8.2 rating. LOVE what you said about Matthew Goode & Mark Strong, glad you didn't overlook both of them as many do. I like Keira Knightley here, she is very strong here and perhaps one of my fave performances I've seen from her. So that's two in one year along w/ Begin Again.

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    1. Thank you! You should see Laggies too, it's her best work and movie from last year!!

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  10. This is a very fine review. I have to say that I dismissed this movie out of hand when I heard that they downplayed his sexuality and that his death by suicide was relegated to a text note at the end of the film.

    But if it's as good as you say, then I will definitely have to see it! I'm glad to hear some genuine good news about this one...

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    1. It's definitely worth seeing. His sexuality is addressed and very delicately portrayed and the text note didn't bother me, it was actually really powerful.

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  11. I really want to see it! I feel like Knightley is doing a marathon, not a sprint, because she continuously keeps putting out great work but not extraordinary -- I'm just hoping she'll be here decades to come. Her character sounds so interesting, too!

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    1. I think Keira was very close to greatness many times, but she is really unique - the only other actresses who are this natural are Cotillard and Mulligan but the latter doesn't really challenge herself

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  12. One more thing: I also hate the international society-wide mistreatment of, disrespect towards, and marginalization of women. And I totally agree that it's an "is" not a "was."

    But I don't think it's about what men have handed to them - I think it's about what men aren't denied or don't have taken away from them that women most frequently are denied or do have taken away from them.

    Either way, it's horrible and that shit needs to stop asap.

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    1. Well "handed to" and "not being denied" it's kinda the same thing, for example promotion when it comes to jobs. The women have to work harder and it still may not be enough. Most professions are boys clubs.

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    2. Well, I would say that people can't necessarily "hand you" respect, but they can try to deprive you of it. It's semantics, I know, but either way it is wrong and must stop.

      And, yeah, plenty of professions are boys clubs, and it's sickening. I don't care whether it would work to my benefit or not. It's bigotry.

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  13. Many many great points here. I loved this movie for quite a few of the reasons you listed. I love your focus on the Keira Knightly character and performance. It was perfect and certainly added to the light wit and humor of this film. It was so great and unexpected where this story went and how it got there. I even enjoyed the whole "detective" and "you will be my spy" bits. And what about the scholar flashbacks? I really thought that was a good narrative touch.

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    1. I loved the flashbacks. They gave such a lovely insight into his character and they were really handled with a lot of class, they could have easily have Cumberbatch in some hot gay sex scene to get the fangirls to see the film but instead this is how they showed Alan's homosexuality.

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  14. This was the film that I was dreading but it was such a pleasant surprise. I've never been a big fan of Cumberbatch, but he was impressive.
    I thought Knightley was better though :P

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    1. Knightley was definitely MVP for me :)

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  15. I really liked this one as well. It's a classic example of Oscar bait, but it's so well done. Terrific performances from Cumberbatch and Knightley, and Desplat's score is wonderful. Nice review.

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    1. Thank you, so glad a lot of people liked it!

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  16. A well-crafted character study which just might land the talented Benedict Cumberbatch a coveted Academy Award.

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