Sitting in the cinema the other day, escaping from the sweltering Melbourne summer heat, I had a realisation: there are a lot of movies coming out that are based on/inspired by true events. I mean A LOT. Not only was I sitting down the watch The Imitation Game (a true story), but earlier in the day I saw The Water Diviner (“inspired” by a true story), along with trailers for Unbroken, Selma and In the Heart of the Sea, all dramatisations of true stories. Does this feed into the calamity of Hollywood making nothing but remakes and reboots? Possibly, as they all run the risk of being stories that we would already know. But we still occasionally get completely fictitious gems like Interstellar, so I wouldn’t be too concerned.
It still catches me as a recent trend though. Anyway, moving on!
Now Showing this week is The Imitation Game, directed by Morten Tyldum. Set in the Academy’s favourite time period, the Second World War, The Imitation Game details the work of British mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) during a top secret mission to crack the Enigma Machine, the system used by the Nazis to encode all their communications. The task seemed impossible due to the millions upon millions of possible cipher combinations, all of which reset every day. But Turing had an idea beyond anyone’s comprehension: to design a machine that could process all the possibilities in mere minutes, much like the modern day computer.
I made a joke before about World War II being Hollywood’s most favoured time period because I thought it has been done so many times and that I’d seen every story there was to tell from that dark period of history. But The Imitation Game has shown me how wrong I am. I had no idea about the story of Alan Turing, whether or not he cracked Enigma and what effect he had on the war effort. And the first thing about this film that I will commend was how it made such a bland scenario so exciting. The idea of mathematicians sitting around trying to crack a code might not sound like riveting movie-going, but the stakes of the situation and excellent characterisation turns something so seemingly tedious into an adrenaline-pumping espionage thriller.
The writing is the true star of the film. Graham Moore’s adaptation of Andrew Hodges’ book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” is witty, clever, and insightful beyond its spy thriller outer layers. Code breaking certainly drives the plot of the film, but Turing’s work opens the doors to philosophical discussion on what artificial intelligence could tell us about ourselves, and it did so in a time where such discussion blew people’s minds. The writing truly shines through Turing himself, where it shows that his intellect made his brain operate on a completely different level to those around him and led to some of the films most poignant, and often hilarious, moments.
Coming in at a very close second for star of the film is Cumberbatch’s performance as Turing. Where he starts as an amusingly logical and arrogant genius, Cumberbatch’s performance led to a most harrowing portrayal as the film delved into Turing’s personal struggles with being a homosexual in a time where being homosexual was a crime. Cumberbatch proves himself once again as being a very versatile performer. After playing such powerful figures as Sherlock Holmes, Smaug the dragon and Star Trek Into Darkness‘ Khan, to see this brilliant yet timid character only further establishes the man’s talents.With a supporting cast full of some of Britain’s finest actors, from Keira Knightley to Charles Dance and Mark Strong, The Imitation Game is rife with great performances.
I’m going to just say it, The Imitation Game is one of the best films I have seen this past year. Much like 2012’s Argo, a declassified spy thriller story has made for an excellent piece of cinema. With Oscar nominations just around the corner, I really hope to see it feature strongly in the big five categories. I haven’t seen all the films slated for Oscar favour so I can’t call it the best of them all, but right now I’m rooting for it.The World War II setting will definitely give it a boost for Oscar attention though.
And I am totally OK with that.
See you next time!