365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


The Imitation Game (2014)

The one movie of 2014 that I really was not looking forward to seeing but knew that I had to see was, without a doubt, The Imitation Game. I learned early in the year that this would end up being one of the movies to beat, but there was something about the trailer that told me that the movie would probably be well made and tell a great, true story, but also be extremely boring and long. Boy was I wrong. The first thing to point out was that this movie was only 1 hour ad 50 minutes. I love a movie that can tell its story under two hours. I understand the standard is tending to be closer to 2 hours and 15 minutes (with many, many movies pushing or exceeding 3 hours), but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Secondly, this movie was never dull. In the wrong hands, this movie as being a complete snooze-fest. It was anything but. This is why,without even having seen some of the probably Oscar nominated movies yet to be released (most notably Unbroken, American Sniper, Selma, Mr. Turner, and Into the Woods), I am ready to give Morten Tyldum a Best Director nomination. The only other nomination I have cemented is Richard Linklater (Boyhood). The direction in this movie was outstanding and I am confident there will not be three better directed movies in 2014 that I have yet to see.

Benedict Cumberbatch (August: Osage County, 12 Years a Slave) is also a slam dunk for a Best Actor Academy Award nomination. I would not at all be disappointed if he won. As of the writing of this post, my only two certainties are Cumberbatch and Steve Carrel (Foxcatcher). People continue to talk about Michael Keaton (Birdman) and I just don't see it. He gave an above average performance, but it was not even a top ten of the year, in my opinion, let alone a top five or, as some are saying, number one. Cumberbatch was absolutely phenomenal. I know it seems like he's been in just about everything in the past couple of years, but, with apologies to the television show Sherlock, this is his career defining performance.

Cumberbatch plays mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing who built a machine that he hoped would be able to decipher intercepted German code during World War II. At the start of the movie, we learn that British forces have captured a machine named Enigma which is by the Nazis to encode all military radio transmissions from ordinary weather reports to valuable tactical maneuvers. Though the forces have one of these machines in their possession, it is useless without a code-breaker. We learn that the Germans change the setting every day at midnight and that there are 154 million million potential combinations that change every 24 hours. Breaking Enigma, we are told, is impossible. Yet, we are told that this is really the one big chance the Allies have of winning the war. By breaking the code, the Allies can find the exact locations, movements, strategies, etc.

The movie plays out in three parts. At the start it is 1951. There is a break-in at Turning's home and, despite some of his possessions being stolen, Turning doesn't want to press charges. This leads one of the two investigating officers to become curious. He looks into Turning's file from World War II only to find his file empty. This makes him more curious and despite his partner telling him that he think that he should just drop it, the first investigator decides to charge Turning for crimes of indecency just so that he could hold him and try to figure out more about him. This leads us to the periods of 1939-1941 (the time frame for 90-95% of the movie). Turning is interviewing with British Commander Denniston (Charles Dance - television's Game of Thrones, Gosford Park) about a top secret position in his government (that none of the candidates are supposed to know anything about). Turning absolutely bombs the interview in the worse possible way, but just as Denniston is about to excuse the interviewee, Turning surprises him by admitting that he knew exactly why he was there and what he was being interviewed for. This peeks Denniston's interest just enough to let him see another day. Soon enough is on a team with a handful of other code breakers, all who are trying to solve Enigma. The third part of the story is played as a flashback to Turning's days at prep school where he was a middle school student, awkward and sneaky, where he developed a love for cryptography and for members of his own sex.

Though based on a true story, Alan Turning is far from an everyday name. The work he did in cracking Enigma wasn't even recognized until 1989. The Imitation Game is being compared to another biopic this year. The Theory of Everything stars Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking and likely will also amass Oscar nomination for Best Picture and Best Actor as well Best Actress (Felicity Jones) and Best Adapted Screenplay (as well as other potential nominations). It is likely neither of these movies earns an Oscar win this season, but, rest assured, that these two movies will get plenty of nominations. Cumberbatch, Redmayne, Carrel, David Oyelowo (Selma), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), and Keaton will be the names you hear over and over in the next couple of months. I feel like Gyllenhaal will be the odd man out. Except for Keaton, all four of the other actors are playing real life characters. Keaton is not, but there are those that think that Birdman is based loosely on his story and that the film was written specifically for him to star in. I sort of feel that there was so much talk about Keaton getting an Oscar nomination even before this movie was released that it will be enough to secure him a nod. There seems to be an unwritten rule in Hollywood that if it is your first time being nominated (especially for Best Actor or Best Actress) that the nomination itself is the award. Interestingly enough, if any of these six favorites are nominated for acting's top prize, it will be the first Best Actor nomination for each of them (Gyllenhaal was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for 2004's Brokeback Mountain. Going back to my main point of this paragraph, however, is that people know all about Stephen Hawking whereas people know nothing about Alan Turning. In my opinion, this made Redmayne's job much more difficult than Cumberbatch's. Cumberbatch had more free reign in his role. So if you think Redmayne nailed his role (which I did), he probably gets the nod over Cumberbatch.

Keira Knightley (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) is one of many co-stars. She underwhelms in this movie as Turning's top code breaking recruit. It's not so much that she underwhelms as much as she wasn't given the chance to shine. And for this movie, she didn't really need to. Cumberbatch was so good that he didn't need really need a top counterpart. He just needed his fellow co-workers to show up. He really was able to take care of the rest. That doesn't mean that Knightley (Joan Clark) didn't hold her own. The experts say she'll earn a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. It's just that when you except to see a Keira Knightley movie, you expect her to tear up the screen and, frankly, she doesn't in this movie. Other solid, but not great, performances were also turned in by Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode - Match Point, A Single Man) and Allen Leech (television's Downtown Abby).

Cumberbatch is here to stay as a leading man. He's got a way to develop this unique characters in ways that are reminiscent of an early Daniel Day-Lewis. I actually almost wish he had not had a role in August: Osage County because I thought his character in that movie was similar to his character in The Imitation Game. His performance in this movie made you forget you were even watching Cumberbatch. Even without ever knowing anything about Alan Turning, Cumberbatch made it so you understood the man perfectly. With all of his awkward eccentricities and his tell it exactly as he sees it approach, Turning left everything out in the open except for the one part of himself that he was forced to keep away from everyone. The closeted homosexual knew that if his secret became known he would be convicted for gross indecency, a crime punishable by either law or chemical castration. As awkward and seemingly aloof from his fellow code breakers as guys that he should have been better working with as a team, he understood well enough that he had to hide and deny his encounters with other men. It helped make his character that much more multi-dimensional.

This is a movie for everyone to check out. If the preview enticed you, I think you'll love it. If you weren't wowed by the trailer (like I wasn't), I still think you will enjoy this film. It's multidimensional. If there isn't one part of the story that you particularly love, there will be others.

Plot 10/10
Character Development 9.5/10
Character Chemistry 9/10
Acting 9.5/10 (Knightley who is usually wonderful was somewhat flat, but Cumberbatch was out of this world and the other performances memorable)
Screenplay 10/10 (translated onto film perfectly...as stated in my first paragraph, this movie had potential to be extremely boring)
Directing  10/10 (one of, if not the, best directed movies of the year)
Cinematography 10/10
Sound 9/10
Hook and Reel 10/10
Universal Relevance 10/10 (this was an important story to tell for so many reasons and the timing of this movie couldn't be any more relevant)



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