The Imitation Game – 3.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

the imitation gameThe Imitation Game – 3.5/5 – The start of a new year starts off with a film that isn’t a ‘traditional’ January films.  It is a very well known thing that January films are always bad.  What gives this month a glimmer of hope is the traditional ‘Oscar Push’; which are films that are trying to get there foot in the door for the Oscars.  This is one those films that go for that push.  The Imitation Game is a ‘true story’ inspired film.  A struggle against time as well as against his own personal choices; The Imitation Game is a slow burn that pays off in the end.

Premise: The story of Alan Turing; as we watch his greatest achievement and his ultimate downfall.

In the main role of Alan Turing is acclaimed actor Benedict Cumberbatch.  Known as ‘Sherlock’ (Because of his BBC series), Cumberbatch gives a stellar performance of the man who broke the Enigma machine.  He not only gives a faithful portrayal of a man of deep intellect, but also someone that struggles with his own personal identity, as he also tries to understand the blinding social structure compared to how he wishes to live.  In retrospect, it is hard to fathom the reasoning behind the belligerence, but you do understand it because of the times.  That compliment of it being a ‘period’ piece helps exude you’re attachment to his struggles of friendship, love, intelligence and most of all, what it is to be human.  Cumberbatch puts layers upon his character within a singular presence, moving you to cringe at his arrogance and welcome him with open arms upon his flawed emotional aspects.  The layer of his human complexion helps you see his pure innocence of common place.  This role (I believe) will propel him to get award recognition.  In the supporting cast, it is a mixed bag of elite names with unknowns.  For the prominent figures in the film, you have:

Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke

Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander

Mark Strong as Stewart Menzies

Charles Dance as Commander Denniston

Rory Kinnear as Detective Robert Nock

Allen Leech as John Cairncross

Each of these particular figures plays important roles in the life of Alan Turing.  Each of them does a great job in giving us breathtaking performances, helping add to the ‘period piece’ mantra.  Each character helps define the efforts and struggle with the ‘race against time’ to break the enigma code, and the ambiguity of the era of Great Britain at this time.  Secrets have more meaning than the literal presence, and that flows in between each character as they interact with Alan.  There are times when each of the supporting cast do fall into the fold of the ‘archetypes’ of a war/spy like film, but it is only a little bump in the road, and stand out as individual characters.  The biggest standout from this bunch is Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke.  No matter what kind of film she is in, she always gives the best in those roles; as this is no exception.  No matter if it’s a Pirate, a Duchess or an indie rock singer; she exudes that specific role.  Knightley makes you believe the character as a real person.  The interactions give you that ‘black/white’ perspective with her relationship with Alan Turing; showing you a mirror into the fraught of struggling against social norms while also protecting that same society.   It is mesmerizing and delicate at the same time.  The great acting is also complimented by the unique direction.

The direction of The Imitation Game takes an approach that is rarely seen for a film of this nature.  In being both a period piece and a biography of Alan Turing; you had to find a way to tell both situations without causing one to overshadowing the other.  The direction takes the approach of meshing the three periods of Turing’s life.  Those three periods are:

Turing’s early childhood life

Turing and his crew’s time together to break Enigma

Present time with Turing’s ‘secret life’ leading to his mental breakdown/downfall

What is amazingly done (in linking these periods) is the ingenious direction.  The periods are linked and layered gradually throughout the film, where each section opens slowly like a ‘chapter’ within Alan Turing’s life.  What happens (while watching this film) is a unique experience where you see the rise and fall of someone that shouldn’t have fallen, as well as see the consequence in those actions with the ‘race against time’ to win the war against the Nazi’s.  This film takes the basic tropes of characterization and the ‘slow burning method’ and brings them together, while creatively pushing each to its limits.  We see an intricate film between these time periods; as the direction peels back each layer within the underlining theme of struggle vs. normalcy.  What you see is the great historical aspects of what was the ‘behind the scenes’ of World War II, as well as the pressures of conformity because of the ‘periods’ acceptance of certain norms.  This leads to even deeper complex story that deals with ideas of trust, friendship, angst and suspicion.  This helps evolve the film beyond the conventional structure of its introduction, bringing upon an intensity of the situation.  Layering of Turing’s life begins to show how a conventional dynamic of storytelling can be pulled in an abstract way.  It not only shows the purpose of one’s struggle, but also the pitfalls of doing something great being tarnish because of social blindness.  That struggle is fraught within the main character, as he sticks to intellect and proves how enlighten is just a puzzle of the simple, as everything is about life.  That flaw found within the characterization of Alan Turing, the social ideology of England during the 50’s and acceptance within his group of friends/co-workers gives this film the trump card to making this film greater in its experiencing, wanting to see what is going to happen in the end.  The one flaw the film has is also in the same thing that makes it work so well.  The film is (on the surface) a slow burn.  As much as there are deeply moving moments between Turing and his struggles against society and the war, there are also moments that come across as over pretentious, pushing the intellect of the audience to the brim of questioning.  This overtly exercising of the ‘persistent’ barrage of retelling us plot points over and over causes a negative effect.  It is obvious the first time, so redundancy just causes it to drown out its purpose.  Even for these particular staggering parts of the film, you never lose faith in the direction or the story.  By the climax, you’re at a point where all the three time periods meet, leading to a completion where you feel satisfied but bittersweet at what happens to Mr. Turing.

The visuals of the film are amazing and predictable.  Being a period piece (and against three different timelines) you get a complexion that is both ‘interesting’ and ‘obvious’.  With a look at the 1950’s Great Britain, World War II and his early childhood, you get the typical ‘Victorian’ structures and attire that are amazing to see, but known to be that common in its appeal.  This goes for the ‘war’ section of the film.  As much as each scene is important, they didn’t affect the experience of the film’s journey.  The score is non-existent; mute at best.

The Imitation Game is a film that shows that January can have some great films (albeit this was already released earlier).  From the great acting to the awesome direction of his life, you will be moved by Alan Turing’s story.  If you’re a fan of period pieces and Cumberbatch, check this out.  You will not be disappointed.

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