Saturday, April 11, 2015

To hell with your heroes...


I’m not going to try and tell you that ‘The Imitation Game’ is any kind of groundbreaking cinema.  It’s an adequately told story, generic in many parts (as far as the storytelling aspects are concerned) and it carries with it many tropes that the genre (historical biopic) tends to become roped into.  Still, this is a prime example of a story propelling the film forward, drawing you in with so much development.  Unlike the other ‘British biopic’ of the year, ‘The Theory of Everything’, ‘The Imitation Game’ is so rich in character development that it feels like a much more complete film, even if the score isn’t as rousing and the editing isn’t as sharp and the cinematography isn’t as lavish.

If this story had those technical embellishments, the film may have been perfect.



I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting a whole lot here, and maybe that’s why I was kind of blown away with how much I connected to this, but the bottom line is that the film, despite a strong critical response and obvious Oscar attention, has its fair share of detractors; and they are loud.  Apparently many people view the film as a missed opportunity, a film that skirts around more important issues and tries to make Turing’s tragic (and heroic) tale into some sort of ‘sappy Hollywood message film’.  There were countless complaints that the film didn’t focus on Turing’s sexuality enough, that it sidelined the most politically important aspect of his story, and yet to those complaints I genuinely ask…did you watch the movie?

Seriously, did you watch it?

I’m not going to say that the film was two hours of debating the atrocity that was Turning’s treatment (and the treatment of all homosexuals) during and after the war, but the balance that Moore’s screenplay strikes between what Turning did for his country (and the world) and what his country (and the world) did to him is really well developed.

Sorry, haters can attack me all they want, but I’m serious.


It doesn’t nail everything (I found the relationship between Joan and Alan to be underdeveloped), but the important things are addressed with unexpected depth and delicacy.  The way that the film jumps from Turing’s arrest to his classified work and then pack again helps establish the development of his character all the way around.  Unlike the development (or lack thereof) of Hawking in ‘The Theory of Everything’, I felt like I knew Turning when ‘The Imitation Game’ closed.  I felt him in my soul.  A lot of that is due to the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch is so IN THIS, always working to uncover more and more of this man, and the way his eyes betray his self-loathing and internal depression is so heartbreaking; but really the reason we know Turning is because Moore understood this man and knew how to develop him on the page, which translated beautifully onto the screen.


Turing’s life was inspiring, heartbreaking but inspiring, and as a society we can learn from what he accomplished and also from what he went through.  Forsaken by the people he helped save, the lives he helped preserve, the country he aided to victory, Turing’s life story serves as a lesson to us all about humanity and how even our heroes can become condemned because of a lack of it.

B+

24 comments:

  1. Great review! I liked this one quite a bit, and if I had it my way, Knightley would have that Oscar over Arquette.

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    1. I would have given the Oscar to the flies that swarm all over Boyhood's dead Oscar chances over the likes of Arquette, to be honest.

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  2. I watched this and Theory of Everything the same week and was surprised that Everything had so much more praise since I found this more entertaining in every aspect. Cumberbatch isn't an actor I'm overly fond of, I don't dislike him but rarely see anything extraordinary in his work but he was excellent in this. Keira Knightley's character wasn't that well defined which made her performance all the more impressive since she managed to fill her out so well, the inverse of what Felicity Jones did in the mirror role in Theory.

    I agree the film wasn't perfect but I really liked it and out of this year's nominees that I've seen, still missing Selma, Whiplash and American Sniper, it's the only one I'd every watch again.

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    1. Yeah, this was a far better film than Theory, for sure. Knightley was great here, far more impressive than Jones in a very similar role.

      I'd still have given the Oscar to Birdman over this, and even Whiplash, but this was better than the rest that I've seen, even Grand Budapest, which has fallen a bit for me since my initial viewing.

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  3. This is one film I will be seeing very shortly (next couple of weeks). I don't get it, it was not supposed to be only about his homosexuality but mainly what he did and basically saved the world! Great critique! Sad Theory of blah blah won out

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    1. They both only walked away with one Oscar a piece, so it's not like either one actually won much, but Cumberbatch would have been a much more deserving Oscar winner than Redmayne.

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  4. I'm not really interested in seeing this. It's just Oscar-bait that I have no interest in.

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    1. It's above average Oscar bait though, so you should give it a go sometime.

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  5. I agree w/ you on the rating on this one Drew. It's a well-made and well-acted film, not groundbreaking by any means, in fact it's rather formulaic. But it's got enough going for it to warrant a recommendation, I even put it on my top 10 of 2014.

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    1. Yup! It wouldn't make my top ten, but it's a very good film that more people should give a chance to.

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  6. Yay! I didn't expect much either, but I really liked this movie. And I agree that the screenplay does a good job on most fronts. I'm glad the film got those Oscar noms, just so more people will see it. It deserves a wider audience, even if it's not one of the greatest films ever made. And, really, for a project labeled "Oscar bait", it's pretty good.

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    1. Exactly! Films like this get a bad wrap from almost everyone immediately because of the Oscar bait label, but this one does a really great job of making it all feel solidly grounded and effective.

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  7. So glad you liked it! What did you think of other performances? I thought Knigthley was MVP, her character was so inspiring and well written too

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    1. I loved Knightley and was, at the time, blindly rooting for her to surprise on Oscar night with a win over Arquette. I took partial issue to the way that the relationship between Turing and Joan was developed...it needed more meat, but her performance was outstanding and as a character all her own, the script did a great job of making her more than a cliched stock character.

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  8. Oh my gosh, YES!! JUST YES!
    I watched this movie for the first time last night. I was scrolling through the blogs I follow and saw 'A Fistful of Films' and 'The Imitation Game' and was like ohmygosh I need to see what he said..... Well done. ::slow clap:: I agree with all your points.

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    1. Awesome! Glad you liked this one so much too!

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    2. Something that really bothered me, though, was how Knightley's hair always looked so messy and not cared for and all the other women showed in the movie had classy 1950's styles going on... Did anybody else notice that or am I just a hair snob? haha

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    3. LOL, I didn't notice, but maybe they were trying to add a subconscious layer of 'woman in a man's world' to the character.

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  9. "I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting a whole lot here, and maybe that’s why I was kind of blown away with how much I connected to this"

    I have to laugh a bit because this was one of my immediate reactions to Theory of Everything!

    I liked this one, but with reservations. I found it to be both better and worse than it could have been, primarily because it overstates its central theme largely in favor of showing us what its central figure actually did and what actually became of him. It's not that the film doesn't work, exactly, just that when it ended, I couldn't help but think that despite how handsomely it was mounted, how beautifully it was scored, and how brilliantly it was acted, something about it didn't feel quite right. I couldn't quite put my finger on it until much later: While this is a good film, it sands down the many rough edges and untangles the complicated knots of its fascinating true story in the hopes of making it more palatable to audiences. And honestly, a figure as important and complex as Alan Turing deserved better.

    But my biggest problem with the film wasn't the treatment of Turing's sexuality (which the film mostly seemed to play down as just another secret Turing had to keep, only to then attempt to turn it into something larger with that closing text about how many men were convicted of "gross indecency"), but rather its treatment of the machine. NO ONE in the film seems to know how it works, not even Turing. No attempt is ever made to explain it, and people just stare at it as gears click and whirr, hoping that something happens. It was incredibly frustrating, since it's at the center of most of the film's drama.

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    1. You know, you make a serious point (two actually) that I really should have brought out myself. First, I found that final comment about the men convicted to feel ill-timed or slightly off topic. I didn't think it hurt the film, but I think it felt off. Your second point though, about the machine itself, is extremely valid and an issue I also took with the film. I mean, breaking it down and explaining the whole thing may have completely went over everyone's head, but there was a bit of a responsibility to at least try and explain it, even if it was only partial. I'm with you there.

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    2. Even a montage of overlapping technical jargon would have gone a long way towards at least SEEMING like anyone involved with the film (behind the scenes or the characters) knew anything about the machine, and the fact that it didn't include one is one of the biggest knocks against the (totally undeserving) Oscar-winning screenplay - the other being that ridiculously tortured wannabe catchphrase that only Keira Knightley can ALMOST make sound the least bit natural (seriously, how fantastic is she in this?).

      You're exactly right that the text about the large numbers of men convicted of this "crime" was off. You're also probably right that it doesn't really hurt the film, but it seemed to me like an attempt to turn the film into something of a broader statement, which didn't feel true to the spirit of the film at all. It's one of those details in a film that makes me question what the filmmakers were really going for and whether they had any clue as to what kind of film they were actually making.

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    3. Knightley was excellent, as she always is (LOVE her). I mean, I think the screenplay, while not perfect (the recurring 'phrase' used...what...three times...was cringe worthy) was balanced enough to understand the importance of both sides of this story and tell it in a way that felt like it understood that and wanted us to as well. But, I can totally see your concerns with it.

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  10. I agree with you. I didn't think TIG was a game changer, by any stretch, but it was a solid movie as far as Oscar movies go. It was certainly better than Theory of Everything and featured terrific performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, who always had a presence when she was on screen.

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