A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Imitation Game, based on the book of the same name by Andrew Hodges that chronicles the trials and tribulations of Alan Turing as him and his team broke the Enigma code, is a good film that suffers from the same indemnity that plagued The Theory of Everything. It’s too safe, a PG-13 film that ought really to have been an R. There’s plenty that is suggested by the film that it lacks the guts and conviction to show at least some of it. The war scenes particularly suffer from this, where the camera moves over some of the most calm war scenes ever filmed (the blitzkrieg at the beginning of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was more daring). I don’t require carnage, I require boldness. To the film’s credit, however, it perfectly captures how essential Alan Turing was to the Allied war effort in World War II while Theory never manages to prove why Stephen Hawking is so brilliant and vital to the modern scientific revolution. The latter simply relies on its audience knowing that Hawking is a genius while the former at least shows you how critical he was to the entire team effort. Benedict Cumberbatch is perfect in the role and Keira Knightley as mathematician Joan Clarke is more than his equal. When the credits roll, you’ll find yourself affected certainly because you would have to be cold and callous not to be, but the reality may be more of a cause for that than the film itself.
The safety of the film may be embodied the best within, ironically, the conflict sequences. Because the script can’t deftly handle the war and blitzkrieg specifically as the enemies, simpler conflicts are thoroughly fabricated to heighten drama so you can sympathize ever further with Alan Turing (which you already do). Yes, Turing in the film isn’t the easiest man to work with, but when everyone is constantly trying to break down his machine, you’d think they would give more of a damn considering, oh yes, the war. Charles Dance, who has terrified all of us as the patriarch of the Lannister clan in Game of Thrones, is the actor who is wasted the most here. His charm and charisma is all thrown out of the window for the sake of a blanket antagonist that does little to add to the thematic depth of the narrative. Perhaps the most contrived sequence in the entire film is when his Commander Dennison storms into the compound where Turing is building his machine and demands to know where his investment has gone. In a normal setting, investors demanding results is hardly a new thing. Considering how that this is a World War and Britain at that moment was losing, demanding results because of money is a rather stupid thing to do. It wasn’t necessary that the commander like Turing, but simply saying that despite his dislike of him, they were committed to the same cause would instantly have been a more powerful portrait of the man.
Turing’s homosexuality was something people are afraid was going to be lost in the film’s adaptation of his story. It is in reality almost the opposite, with mixed results achieved. There is, simply put, one honest conversation in the entire film about Turing’s sexuality and that is when he confesses it to Clarke. She’s remarkably unfazed by it and Turing is immediately terrified that she doesn’t understand the larger implications of what he just said. As far as she was concerned, they cared for each other and even if it wasn’t sexual, it was something. He wasn’t the perfect husband for her but she had no intention of being the perfect wife, either. They, the two brilliant mind, would grow old together and for her that was the best companionship she could have asked for. There’s no judgment on her part nor any pesky reminders of how wrong it would be for him to tell anyone. She understands him and that understanding comes from a place of realization of how little she is valued as a woman in society, no matter that she’s the only one in a room full of men that can solve Turing’s code in less than six minutes. The other scenes regarding Turing’s homosexuality are unfortunately extremely redundant and pedantic. Turing doesn’t need to be remind “oh, you can get in a trouble for that” every time his sexuality becomes a topic of discussion. It’s extremely patronizing and irritating that the film so often goes that route. It’s like a child who catches his older sibling eating cookies after bedtime and is shocked at that disobedience. Rarely are the consequences to Turing’s sexuality in conversation treated like the grave matter that it is.
That being said, the treatment of Turing himself is as adoring yet blunt as it ought to be. The scenes from his childhood are beautifully done, with just the right amount of restraint that the rest of the movie tends to go overboard on. The production design is absolutely flawless and the art direction is some of the strongest of the past year. Alexandre Desplat’s score is fantastic to behold, if not as unique as his work on Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Morten Tyldum’s direction is steadfastly assured, if not necessarily outstanding. The film’s main legacy may not necessarily be one of outright greatness and it shouldn’t be listed as amongst the eight best films of the year, but the Academy is known for not really getting most things right. But what The Imitation Game will rightfully be remembered for is the limelight that it spread on Turing’s legacy, an incredible man that was in many respects forgotten by world history. As the credits roll, despite how emotionally affected you may be, if you are a decent human being then you will find yourself enraged at how even the most illuminating individuals were treated so cruelly over something that they have no control over. That over forty-nine thousand men suffered the same fate, if not worse, is a matter of extreme human shame. There is a dignity in humanity that ought not to be stamped into the ground, regardless of how brilliant you are. Nevertheless, no one can deny that it is sometimes the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.
Title: The Imitation Game
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Produced by: Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky, Teddy Schwarzman
Written by: Graham Moore
Based On: Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, Mark Strong
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography: Óscar Faura
Editing: William Goldenberg
Production Company: Black Bear Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment, Bristol Automotive
Distributor: StudioCanal (United Kingdom), The Weinstein Company (United States)
Running Time: 114 minutes
Release Dates: 29 August 2014 (Telluride Film Festival), 14 November 2014 (United Kingdom), 28 November 2014 (United States)
Image Courtesy: Movie Pilot