Monday, December 29, 2014
Review: The Imitation Game (2014)
There is a line often used in the film that goes as follows, " It is often those that nobody imagines anything of that do the things that no one can imagine." That line certainly doesn't ring false as there are countless iconic and historical figures who defied people's expectations, like Albert Einstein or the man who is the subject of the film I will review, Alan Turing. But The Imitation Game, in a rather subtle way, shows how one person's imagination or ambition can be crushed by the invisible hands of our own people.
The Imitation Game follows the true story of real-life cryptologist Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) who tried to break the Enigma code to defeat the Nazis in WWII. He enlists of the help of a few other cryptologic, including short-term fiancee Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). But not only did he struggle with trying to win the war, but trying to cover up his homosexuality which he would eventually be persecuted for.
I'll start off with the brilliant performances. Benedict Cumberbatch is in top form as Alan Turing and gives a performance as tricky as the Enigma code. Not only was Turing gay, but he was potentially autistic and as someone who struggles with autism, I would say that playing someone with autism is tough business. You go overboard with the facial tics and stutters, you're overdoing it and if you overdo being introverted, you're underplaying it. Thankfully, Cumberbatch found a good balance and even uses Turing's facial tics and stutters to deliver a complex performance as whenever he does blink and stutter, that is when he is evaluating his options or under stress. Even when Cumberbatch is quoting dialogue, he is still able to showcase Turing's gauntlet of emotions through his facial movements. Keira Knightley is equally as fantastic and complex as Joan Clarke, who is quite spunky and feminine yet fiercefully tries to be "one of the guys". Some of the best scenes, are in fact, the ones between Cumberbatch and Knightley. The rest of the supporting actors, including Mark Strong, Charles Dance, and Matthew Goode, also do outstanding work as well.
I would say another highlight of the film is the flashback scenes where we see Turing when we went to boarding school and had crush on a fellow student. I felt those scenes not only gave us a glimpse of his nature, but showed why he is as refined and introverted as he is. I also thought it was interesting how writer Graham Moore demonstrated the hardships this man faced in a way that doesn't demand our respect. For example, because Turing went through chemical castration just for being gay, we never see the procedure at hand yet I liked that we never do because it would've came off as rather patronizing. Some could argue that the homosexuality aspect was just thrown in for dramatic measure, but I felt that it was included because we are given a glimpse of how back then, people would bite the hand that fed them. Turing helped crack the Enigma code for the British government and for the government to suddenly turn on him just because of his nature was utterly devastating. There are certain points where the characters talk about "playing God" and that is to me, the undertone with how the government is portrayed here. One last bonus the film has, besides the script and performances, is the beautiful score by Alexandre Desplat that for sure is worthy of likely Oscar consideration.
I'll admit that one problem I had was that, and I might have a difficult time explaining this, when watching the film, I felt it had a rather cold and detached vibe. As I was feeling touched by Turing's story and Cumberbatch's portrayal, when the film ended, I didn't really cry the tears or have an angry "people suck" reaction that I maybe thought I would. Maybe, those kind of expectations were a little too high. But eventually, as I reflected on the film after it was over, I was able to feel some kind of emotional reaction but in a rather subtle way. So, the film worked as a rather slow burn, I suppose.
Overall, The Imitation Game is a biopic that is as rich and complex as the man it portrays. The performances are fantastic, the score is beautiful, and the screenplay by Graham Moore is terrific.
Would I Recommend It?:
I would say if you like Benedict Cumberbatch or are a history buff, you should run out and see this. Due to the film's subject matter, some might write it off as another "Oscar bait" and I could see why since I had that kind of small skepticism going in, yet was pleasantly surprised. If you have those kind of preconceptions, I would still say give it a try. It isn't just because it is a great film, in my opinion, but because it teaches us about a man who had great contributions to society, yet never got proper credit.