Saturday, October 11, 2014

Milwaukee Film Festival 2014: The Imitation Game

Heading into The Imitation Game there were lots of high expectations. It's already played at multiple festivals to lots of praise and is an early front runner for multiple Oscar awards. So,I was glad to be able to get an early peak at it during the festival. But the question was would it live up to the hype? And for the most part it did.

The Imitation Game is based on a true story of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) who during World War II cracked the Enigma Code the Nazi's were using to send secret messages.  The Enigma Code was thought to be unbreakable due to the randomness of the code and the fact it changes every day.  Turing enlisted a bunch of puzzle solvers from the street including a female Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightly) to help him. With their help he builds a machine he calls Christopher, which might be the worlds first computer, to help break the code.

But the movie is than just about Turing breaking the Enigma Code. The movie is told with three simultaneous timelines. There is Alan in school, Alan in WWII, and Alan in the 1950's. The three timelines represent turning points in his life. In the school timeline we learn about how he fell in love with his classmate Christopher and how those feelings will affect him for the rest of his life.  Then we have the Enigma timeline where not only is he breaking codes to reveal secrets but also trying to protect his own secret. And even though at one point he becomes engaged to Joan it's more out of circumstance than love. In the 50's he raises the suspicion of an investigator and his secrets are threatened to be exposed again. 

While the story might seem familiar it is the way it is told that makes it feels different. We are use to seeing on screen geniuses that have no social grace and are very blunt. But here jumping back and forth between different timelines makes the story seem fresh. The screenplay by Graham Moore manages to use each timeline to build on the suspense of the others and they each have a three act structure and work as stories of their own. While it might sound like it would be confusing it works really well.  The actors also help in making the movie work. Cumberbatch and Knightly give great performances as does the supporting cast.  The entire ensemble is well cast and everyone plays their roles perfectly. The score by Alexandre Desplat really sets the movie apart also.  I appreciated the unique sound it had and was the perfect addition to the action on screen. 

Of course all of this is thanks to the great direction of Morten Tyldum.  I have never heard of him before and I think we will be hearing much more from him.  He seems to be able to get amazing performances from the cast as well as knowing how to manage the drama and still have it be funny.  That was the other thing that surprised me was how funny the movie was. He managed to tell a heartbreaking story at times while still keeping it light and throwing in a few laughs.  

The biggest problem with the movie is it feels very familiar.  You will probably see lots of comparisons to A Beautiful Mind.  Both are true stories about geniuses that don't fit in and both have secrets that get revealed.  At points in the movie it feels like Cumberbatch is just redoing what Russell Crowe did so well.  But again this is where the structure and score help the movie.  While it always feels like it has something in common with A Beautiful Mind it somehow manages to feel unique.  

Overall: 4.5/5 Great movie with great cast.  And even though it does manage to set itself apart from similar movies there are parts that make it feel like it is just repeating that same thing we have already seen.  

No comments:

Post a Comment