Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game, 2014
Directed by Morten Tyldum

In a race against time, the British government is trying desperately to crack the Enigma Code, the way in which The Germans encode their messages during WWII. They are trying to crack the code in order to win the war. However, this is an impossible task. There are millions of millions of possibilities for the code, and they change the code everyday at midnight. But at Bletchley Park, groups of scholars, mathematicians, and all sorts of intelligents are gathered to try and crack the code. Enter Alan Turing, a prodigy Cambridge student who loves crossword puzzles and games. Turing is hired, along with a small group of others, to crack Enigma. Confident in his skills and knowledge, Turing knows that humans are incapable of cracking the code themselves as there are millions of millions of possibilities for the code and the code changes every day at midnight. So he set out to invent a super machine in which can crack the code for them.

The story of Alan Turing is a complex one. And while I’ve heard that the film is not that accurate at all (when are these biopics ever that accurate?), the story is an interesting and a thrilling one. The film shows all the tangled webs that are weaved throughout the war, and how the war was simply not just the soldiers out fighting on the battlefield. There was much more to the war, so much we don’t know. And Alan Turing played a large part in that. The story is well balanced in talking about Turing’s personal life, his work and his life after the war.

While Turing is most well known for essentially inventing the computer during WWII, the other thing most well known about him is that he was gay (something of which was illegal in the UK at the same). And as punishment, was chemically castrated. The film does involve his homosexuality, and, while many have complained the film isn’t “gay enough”, I found the balance that was struck was appropriate and made the most sense. The most interesting thing I found about this film, and the attitude of many of the people who talk about Turing is that it’s terrible that we uphold Turing as a war hero, but then we chemically castrate him for being a homosexual. And while I do agree, chemical castration is terrible and is such a dark part of the UK’s past, but I find it interesting that most people think of the situation this way. Turing’s part in the war was not only classified, but no records existed for what he did during the war. His file is completely empty, as the film shows. Nobody knew of his contributions for a long time. As well, Turing was offered the choice of a few years in prison, or to be chemically castrated. He chose castration over prison so he would be able to continue working.

Nobody knew that the government had condemned and castrated a man who helped to end the war and had contributed so much. In their eyes, this was just another homosexual man, a regular man. I wonder whether things would’ve been different had anyone known. I suppose you could argue that the people who did know could’ve stepped up. But I feel as though things may have been a little different had it been known how much Turing had done for his country. This could be naivety on my part, but you never know.

Anyway, the film didn’t overly focus on this. This is just me taking these thoughts away from the film. Film’s that have you asking questions are always good ones. The way in which Turing was treated was undoubtedly horrible, whether or not he was a war hero.

As well, Keira Knightley’s character Joan Clarke is probably the person who fascinated me most. Joan came to Bletchley Park after completing a crossword puzzle in the newspaper, the means used to find new recruits as code breakers to work on Turing’s team. She was the only woman and, at the interview, completed the exercises faster than Turing himself had. But Joan found herself unable to attend. She is a young, unmarried woman, and to do such work amongst men (the work at Bletchley was disguised as working at a Radio Factory) was not looked as “appropriate” by her parents. However, Turing is incredibly interested in Joan, and is able to get her to come, though working among the women who intercepted the German messages. Joan and Alan became extremely close and she also plays a part in the cracking of Enigma. Joan Clarke was a very well-written female character in a very male film. The fact that a woman like her existed is fantastic. I found Joan probably the most interesting character of the bunch. She was strong, intelligent, and knew exactly what she wanted. But being a woman meant that there were so many obstacles in her way. But she overcame so many of them to get where she went.

The film itself was well-made, though nothing terribly stand-out about it. It was thrilling, had a great story and the story itself was delivered well. Turing is an interesting character and Benedict Cumberbatch played him so well. Cumberbatch is just one of those actors where I don’t believe when people say he can’t act. I mistrust those people because Cumberbatch is one of the most obviously talented and passionate actors working right now. You can tell he had such devotion to the part and to the man himself. You can tell how much love and effort was put into the role. He played the part incredibly well and delivered on so many levels. And as much as I loved the character of Joan, Keira Knightley’s performance was simply a solid one but nothing terribly standout. Though admittedly the role of Joan was not nearly as juicy as I’ve made it sound, and often didn’t have Keira Knightley doing things overly interesting. Though in the small moments she needed to deliver, she always did.

As well, I’m a huge fan of Alexandre Desplat, and his work here, of course, was fabulous. Desplat is always so brilliant for having elements of the story and film reflecting in his music. In this case, Desplat often had the music feel very scattered and very ticking. It definitely felt puzzle and enigma-like, which is something I love about Desplat’s style.

In the end, while the film wasn't edgy and didn't take very many risks, it was still an incredibly enjoyable film. The screenplay was well-written, and while the approach of the scattered story-telling (in order to feel like a puzzle, as well) worked for the most part, it started to get a little too much and felt less effective by the end. However, there were some incredibly well-written and directed scenes. The “breakthrough” scene was a particular highlight of the film. As well, so many things were included without detracting from other details (a problem which The Theory of Everything seemed to have). Everything in the story was balanced exceedingly well, and this helped aid the film. 

Overall, the film should perform reasonably well at the Oscars. The screenplay is a current frontrunner for the win in Adapted Screenplay, and Desplat is also overdue for an Oscar win. However, I don’t see Cumberbatch being the winner of lead actor (I would personally choose fellow Brit Eddie Redmayne over Cumberbatch). However, the film should walk away with at least 5 nominations, if not more.


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