Monday, 17 November 2014

Review: The Imitation Game

World of Blackout Film Review

The Imitation Game Poster

The Imitation Game
Cert: 12A / 114 mins / Dir. Morten Tyldum
WoB Rating: 6/7

You can't really go wrong with Benedict Cumberbatch. There. I said it. I wouldn't class myself as a fanboy by any means, but I've yet to see him in a role where he's disappointed me*1. Benedict is really the selling-point for The Imitation Game. And this is just as well really, as everything around him is certainly 'good', but rarely rises above that, somehow.

Telling the story of mathematician Alan Turing's work during the Second World War to break the infamous enigma code used by the Nazi forces, the film shifts between 1928 when Alan is a pupil at Sherborne School, 1941 when he's recruited to help crack the code at Bletchley, and 1951 when he lives as a troubled recluse (which is essentially the wraparound segment). The main narrative takes place during wartime, of course, with the other two stories being intercut to support the themes of the film. All in all the device works well, but I couldn't help notice that occasionally we'll be treated to a '1928' (or '1941' or '1951') caption; but not always. To the point where it seems intrusive when the person in charge of the captioning machine seems to have woken up again. As a viewer, you're never lost*2, but either caption all the cuts, or none of them, surely?

So, as I've intimated, Cumberbatch is fantastic as Alan Turing. Awkward yet enthusiastic, shy yet blunt, we get a sense of a man who was a genuine pain in the arse to work with but still wasn't inherently unlikeable, and I genuinely can't think of another performer who'd have brought him to life in this way. Elsewhere the cast is largely solid; Charles Dance plays his role as Commander Deniston straight down the middle*3, Matthew Goode is understatedly great as always as Turing's long-suffering colleague Hugh Alexander, and Keira Knightley seems to have been woefully miscast as Joan Clarke, the team's only female member (this was the 1940s, and that sort of thing simply wasn't done under the normal run of things). It's not that Knightley is awful in her role; the scenes in which Joan is prim-and-proper and quietly determined suit her down to the ground. But at the film's denouement she's called upon to do some actual, emotional acting, and she seems to struggle terribly with it. It's not a deal-breaker, but it is one of the film's weaker points.

With Cumberbatch's performance seemingly more far delicate than the rest of the story, he prevents things from becoming mawkish, even at his most vulnerable. An admirable film which seems to have trouble meshing 21st century values with their post-war counterparts, The Imitation Game never quite grasps what it's reaching for, but it's still an outstanding film and worth watching for what it's actually about rather than how that's done, necessarily.

Wow, that sentence was far too long, even by my standards.

All in all, The Imitation Game is very good; you should see it.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Hmm, well, ...ish?

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
For the most part, yes. As much as I wanted to? No.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
I'd say it probably does.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
You'll lose nothing by watching this on a Sunday afternoon at home.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?
At some point, but probably only the once more.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
I didn't hear one. Which means no.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Spoilers ~ highlight to read: Really, though? It took them that long before they figured out the words 'heil Hitler' may be a key phrase in Nazi communications and they could use that as a kickstart to breaking the code? I'd probably have been too embarrassed to mention that part if I'd been in the team. Which makes it all the more admirable that they did, I suppose…

*1 Not saying that can't or won't happen, it just hasn't yet. Them's the breaks.
*2 Unlike the other Cumberbatch film which switches unannounced between two timelines which look pretty much identical. Yes, I'm still annoyed by that. Still.
*3 But it's at least an atonement for Dracula Untold...

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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