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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Movie Review - The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game (2014)
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, Rory Kinnear, Matthew Beard, Charles Dance, Alex Lawther, and Mark Strong
Directed by Morten Tyldum

Paced extraordinarily well, fantastically acted, and cleverly written passing through three timelines which dramatically strengthen one other without feeling gimmicky, The Imitation Game is one of the surprise treats of the 2014 Oscar season.  The raves it received should seemingly negate the notion that it could ever be a "surprise," but it's the type of film -- an historical drama -- that one often finds difficult to feign excitement.  However, I found director Morten Tyldum's film to cast a light on a subject with which I was unfamiliar and do so in a manner that was engaging and extremely well executed.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, an incredibly intelligent young man only recently graduated from university with a talent for solving a wide variety of puzzles.  This piques the interest of the British Intelligence Agency who hire Turing to try and decode Germany's encoded messages to one another during the height of WWII.  Germany had created a machine known as Enigma which provided millions of different codings making it near impossible for the Allies to figure out what the Nazis were relaying to one another.  Cleverly, the Germans changed the settings on Enigma on a daily basis so unlike Turing's hired colleagues who put pen to paper in order to solve the intricate Enigma messages (only to be devastated at day's end having their work prove all for naught), Turing believed that the only way the Allies could fight Enigma was to build a machine that matched Enigma's prowess.  Although most thought the quirky sensibilities of Turing pointed towards him being crazy, the genius eventually managed to convince his fellow brainiacs (and the British government) that his plan would be a success.  Needless to say, the Nazis didn't overtake Europe, so -- spoiler alert -- he succeeds.

In and of itself, the historical plot of The Imitation Game is worth the price of admission, but there's a devastating personal aspect as well with Turing discovering his homosexuality as a teenager and having to hide his sexual orientation seeing as how being gay was a criminal offense in England through the 1950s.  This adds another layer to the story and makes Turing's life all the more painful in the end.

Director Morten Tyldum keeps the film moving at a surprisingly rapid clip without any lulls.  He very deftly moves the film from WWII era to Turing's youth (when he's played by the wonderful Alex Lawther) to the 1950s when Turing is being investigated by the police for indecency.  Each of these segments builds upon one another to give us an extremely well-rounded glimpse of the complicated individual that is Alan Turing.  Much credit goes to the young Mr. Lawther who makes it entirely believable that he was playing a younger version of Benedict Cumberbatch's Turing.  Through Lawther's portrayal, we can see the obvious evolution of Turing and I found this a pleasant addition to the film.

Benedict Cumberbatch is surprisingly soulful as the adult Alan Turing.  His unique tics and idiosyncrasies coupled with the extremely intelligent manner of speaking give us a character that while awkward is also heartbreaking without ever feeling treacly or emotionally forced.  His supporting cast includes Keira Knightley, quite good as an intelligent woman with whom Turing finds himself a bit infatuated, and Matthew Goode as another smart codebreaker who finds himself often at odds with the shy, introverted Turing.  There's truly not a bad performance in the bunch.

The Imitation Game could easily have been a boring historical docudrama, but, much like The King's Speech several years ago, it rises above the stolid, heavy feeling that sometimes accompanies period pieces and becomes a movie that emotionally resonates while also teaching a little bit about an important part of our past.

The RyMickey Rating:  A- 

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