By Jack Rico
The “1-4-0″: #TheImitationGame is one of 2014’s best. It’s full of suspense, intelligence, drama, beauty and Benedict Cumberbatch’s wow performance.
The Gist: During World War II, the British forces were being overtaken by the Nazi regime and there was only one way to defeat them – by cracking Enigma, the German’s military code machine. A mathematical, cryptanalyst genius named Alan Turing was the only one intelligent enough to decipher the communications codes of the German’s and in the process created the first computer. He was credited with shortening the war and saving over 14 million lives. His struggles of being gay at a time where it was illegal to be so, complicated his work and ultimately took his life.
What Works: Based on a true story, this prestige biopic, the UK’s second magnificent film offering in the genre this year, takes a look at Alan Turing, one of the great unsung heroes of WWII. The story is highly engaging, to the point that it was placed first on the legendary Black List – Hollywood executives’ ranking of the most-liked yet still unproduced screenplays.
The true highlight of the film is Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness, The Fifth Estate) who has fully come into his own now and is close to knocking on the A-List door. His performance is a tough one to pull off because its a complex character. He plays a genius and with it comes along all the nuanced and eccentric mannerisms, not to mention the social awkwardness, that makes up the stigma of a prodigious mind. He’s also gay… in a British military base during the war where homosexuality is illegal and thought of as “gross indecency.” Cumberbatch manages to give off subtle signals of it without coming off as obvious or ostentatious. This, plus he has to understand and memorize a highly intelligent vernacular on machines and algorithms. Not many actors offered us that this year except Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, from what I can recall.
Apart from that, kudos must be given to Norwegian helmer Morten Tyldum, who made a remarkably fun movie called Headhunters streaming right now on Netflix, for showcasing a high level of filmmaking craftsmanship and understanding of the story at hand. It’s almost like he was there in ’52 when the whole thing unfolded. He implemented all the stylized visual stunts we see from prestige films, specially biopics (i.e A Beautiful Mind, Chariots of Fire, Amadeus, My Left Foot) from Spanish cinematographer Óscar Faura (The Impossible, El Orfanato). There was a beautiful tragic elegance to it that carries an emotional evocation. Credit also goes to screenwriter Graham Moore for devising one of the most memorable opening, off-screen monologue scenes I can remember in years – “Are you paying attention? If you are, listen closely because if you don’t…”.
What Doesn’t Work: I’d have to see the movie again to be able to nitpick the film meticulously, and when someone has to go to that extent, the audience isn’t going to care what you have to say anyway. This film is air tight, no visible issues in narrative, acting or emotional structure. This is easily one of the best movies of the year.
Pay or Nay? Pay. I can almost promise you The Imitation Game will be nominated at least for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Screenplay. It’s a visceral look at a man who is struggling with is identity, place in the world, love and the gift of brilliance. You’ll be engrossed from the first frame until the end, from suspense to drama, humorous levity and a magnificent production sure to make you revive your spirit of world history as soon as you leave the theater.
Rated: PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking.
Release Date: November 28, 2014
Screenplay: Graham Moore
Director(s): Morten Tyldum
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Film Genre: Drama