Directed by: Morten Tyldum || Produced by: Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky, Teddy Schwarzman
Screenplay by: Graham Moore || Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, Rory Kinnear
Music by: Alexandre Desplat || Cinematography by: Oscar Faura || Edited by: William Goldenberg || Country: United Kingdom || Language: English
Running Time: 114 minutes
As far as Oscar-baits go, The Imitation Game (TIG) makes for easily watchable, educational historical drama about a previously unsung war-hero, Alan Turing, whose mainstream recognition is far past due; if that doesn’t make your heart swoon just a little bit (particularly given the nature of his prior public shunning), I’m not sure what will. At least it’s nowhere near as contrived as The Theory of Everything (2014)!
Putting my manspect for Benedict Cumberbatch aside (manspect = respect for manliness/suave/swagger, etc.), TIG is a by-the-numbers period drama that follows the work of mathematicians, statisticians, and various other military intelligence nerds working behind the scenes as World War II rages in the foreground. Something that sets TIG somewhat apart from you average boring historical period-piece is its small but tasteful cuts to the actual war battles that the main characters of the film are indirectly affecting. Films like A Beautiful Mind (2001) or Atonement (2007) or similar-minded biopics set against tumultuous world events generally don’t take the brief amount of time to acknowledge the effects of their protagonists on the outside world. TIG’s small but appreciated efforts to visually demonstrate the connection between its cast and the end-all, be-all warfare that’s constantly referenced in dialogue adds considerable weight to their accomplishments.
The supporting cast around the Cumberbunster are good and add some adequate room for the latter’s character arc and social growth, as well as offer some likable humor and personalities of their own. Matthew Goode and Keira Knightley are the most memorable of the group besides Cumberbatch, and each sport small arcs of their own. Knightley probably gives her best performance this side of that tiresome Pirates of the Caribbean (2003, 2006, 2007) franchise.
Much of what drags down TIG is its numerous pacing issues and unhealthy stretches of filler. What’s sure to irk many historically-minded viewers is that most of that filler is fictitious writing added in as lame attempts to stir up extra drama in the story. Various subplots involving Soviet spies embedded in the British MI6 division and the particulars of this love triangle or that are unnecessary and don’t add much to the overarching plot or Alan Turing’s (Cumberbatch’s) character. This narrative fat might not be so tiresome if not for the film’s flat, boring cinematography, but this is the movie we got.
On the other hand, I thought the aspects of Turing’s private life, namely his real-life homosexuality and fictionalized Autism-spectrum personality, were tastefully handled. The former is examined as it unfairly impacted his life after the war, while at the same time never overshadowing his groundbreaking accomplishments, and the latter provides a more satisfactory (and entertaining) arc than the character’s actual real-life personality. Sure, screenwriter Graham Moore & Co. essentially turn Turing into a deeper, glorified version of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory (2007-present), but I’d argue that the end result is a more likable, personable, and memorable character that does greater service to Turing’s legacy in the long run — as odd as that sounds.
In the end, The Imitation Game is worth watching if only for obligatory viewing of all eight 2015 Best Picture nominations, and considerably more so if you want to see Benedict Cumberbatch at the height of his powers. Beyond that though, the film is none too special as either a wartime intelligence-drama or a historical period piece. It’ll fill you with plenty of warm feelings by the end, but there’s little here to truly captivate anyone or anything you’ll remember after you leave the theatre. But again, at least it tries more than The Theory of Everything.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Cumberbatch delivers as one of the most entertaining and talented up-and-coming actors working, today. His portrayal of the previously unappreciated Alan Turing is sympathetic, likable, and suitably tragic. In his own way, he does the quiet war hero justice. The way director Morten Tyldum incorporates elements of the outside world and the greater conflict at large adds depth to this otherwise quiet adventure.
— However… nothing much exciting or dramatic happens during the whole movie (visually, its style is uninteresting), and things aren’t helped by numerous side-plots that don’t go anywhere and altogether uninteresting romantic teases.
—> ON THE FENCE
? Today we call them “computers.”