The Imitation Game (2014)
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The Imitation Game plays like the polite dinner conversation at a party, before drinks have been served to loosen everybody up. It's so mannered and inoffensive that it seems to come at us from the chamber of a prettily-furnished snow globe.
It's a biopic that chronicles three interwoven periods in the life of mathematician Alan Turing, a solitary introvert who developed a machine that deciphered codes the Nazis used to deliver tactical messages during WW2. A latent homosexual, the film explores Turing's difficult and ultimately failed efforts to reconcile his nature with societal pressures to lead a conventional life.
Taken from a screenplay by Graham Moore, which topped the 2011 Black List, The Imitation Game does not measure up to the profundity of its material. In an attempt to cater to everyone, the film reaches for no-one in particular. If it was a woman she'd be in a full-length gown buttoned up to the neck, sipping tea in a pavilion somewhere, talking very drearily about something pretty interesting. Substituting for depth and the gritty truth are eloquent turns of phrase and a nostalgic ambience.
Moore's buttery screenplay is self-impressed and prone to occasional hysteria. The line, 'Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine,' is apparently so beautiful it's repeated in all three interwoven stories. A scene where Cumberbatch awkwardly proposes to Knightley is cutesy and insincere. The actors might as well be holding up a sign that says ISN'T THIS DELIGHTFUL! There are also some incredibly sloppy cues in the narrative; in one scene Cumberbatch discovers the identity of a Soviet spy by finding the Bible sitting on a colleague's desk - conveniently earmarked with the exact passage he knows was used to encrypt the message for the Soviets.
Despite all this, Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley give appealing performances - but it's Alex Lawther as the young Alan Turing who steals the show with one heartbreakingly honest closeup near the end. The Imitation Game is pleasant enough as a piece of literate artifice. The problem with the movie is that it has dishonoured its subject matter by distorting it with an Oscar-grade glossiness that the film's themes and performances resist but fail to overcome. I came out of the cinema curious about the real Turing, and disappointed that his story had been pilloried in this way. There's an interesting movie here somewhere, underneath all the tinsel.
As we live in today's society that is so detached from history, there is just nothing more despicable and dangerous than fabricating historical events to cater your awful screenplay. I am sure some productive individual has made a comprehensive list of these historical inaccuracies but to me it was clear this was a work of pure fiction from the beginning.
I don't know what the hell the production team was thinking (not much probably) because there is just so many of this revisionist fantasy cropping up all the time. By the time Benedict Cumberbotch implied that their team had an effect on the outcome of Stalingrad I wondered whether the filmmakers had just given up. I guess they had to show that snippet of footage everyone has seen like a million times. Thankfully, they got the most important part right, about Brits breaking the Enigma code. Oh wait, Polish judenagents broke the code in 1932 and later gave the results to the Brits. Whoops.
Besides these fuck-ups they also completely hacked the character of Turing. I mean, the real Turing was such an interesting guy to begin with, why was there a need to write him into this cliched and soulless cardboard cutout? I actually liked Benedict Cumbersome's acting, but unfortunately it too was made trite by the heavy-handed screenplay.
But the biggest problem of this film, the not-so-subtly hidden socio-political agenda, brings this film crashing down just like Junkers Ju 87 brings down its deadly 250 kg payload. I really was tricked into believing this movie was about Enigma and codebreaking. Instead of showing the real mastermind Turing, the movie was hell bent on showing just a dysfunctional homosexual fight the n-n-nazis.
Instead of showing the legendary Bombe, we were shown some sappy monstrosity called Christopher. Instead of a no-nonsense movie about WW2 codebreaking, we get gay rights propaganda shoved down our throats. I find all this very appalling because now we'll probably never get a honest movie about Bletchley Park. Now it got a comical Hollywood treatment. With extremely cringeworthy epilogue.
I could probably go on about the ridiculous CGI Blitz & Panzer IV's, numerous genre cliches, nonexistent soundtrack or the film's surgical disregard of important figures like Flowers but I'll pass at the risk of getting an ulcer.
Sure wish now that I could have spent the two hours doing something worthwhile, like listening to King Crimson or reading Mein Kampf.
A masterful performance in a story long overdue for telling. Ultimately, it feels a lot like just another in a long line of annual British WWII dramas that will be nominated for an Oscar. Very good, but not amazing. Feels like its message is too little too late.
Three stars out of four.
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In 4 official lists
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This movie ranks #34 in IMDb's Biography Top 50
This movie ranks #46 in IMDb's War Top 50
This movie ranks #522 in Academy Award Best Picture Nominees
This movie ranks #647 in All-Time Worldwide Box office