The Imitation Game

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DIR: Morten Tyldum WRI: Graham Moore PRO: Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky, Teddy Schwarzman DOP: Óscar Faura ED: William Goldenberg DES: Maria Djurkovic MUS: Alexandre Desplat CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Charles Dance

 

A handsomely mounted, solidly entertaining biopic, The Imitation Game, gives a partially fictionalised account of the life of English mathematician and logician Alan Turing, who helped crack the Enigma code at Bletchley Park during World War II, and later died by his own hand after being forced to undergo chemical castration to “cure” his homosexuality.

 

While Michael Apted’s Enigma (2001) attempted the awkward task of making action heroes and romantic leads of Bletchley boffins, The Imitation Game takes a more level-headed approach to the subject.  Morten Tyldum’s assured direction offers a carefully calibrated mixture of suspense and cosiness (echoed in Alexandre Desplat’s tense but oddly quaint score), sculpting the film around Benedict Cumberbatch’s central performance as Turing.  Unlike his turn as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate (2013), which never rose above meticulous impersonation, Cumberbatch makes Turing a rounded creation, balancing intellectual assurance and social discomfort, even when saddled with some rather on-the-nose dialogue.  Mark Strong makes an impression as a shady MI6 agent, but Cumberbatch’s real foil here is Keira Knightley, playing Turing’s fellow cryptanalyst, and one-time fiancée, Joan Clarke.  Knightley has a tremendously appealing presence, and she gives Clarke an effervescence that tempers the script’s tendency to reduce her to a mere emblem of the condition of being a woman in a “man’s world”.

 

The film was written by an American, Graham Moore, and it shows.  Moore has a firm grasp of scriptwriting formulae, but is on less sure footing conjuring a sense of place and time.  The characters’ eagerness to disclose their emotions to one another, usually through aphorism, feels neither particularly British nor particularly of the period, and a handful of nagging anachronisms and Americanisms (in particular, the persistent use of the word “smart” to mean intelligent, as distinct from quick-witted) would surely have snagged on the finely tuned sensitivities of Bletchley Park’s Oxbridge-schooled code-breakers.  More disconcerting than these minor quibbles is the script’s suggestion that Turing’s code-breaking machine was developed to fill the void left by a deceased childhood beloved.  It’s not only commendable, but essential, that Turing’s sexuality be part of this narrative, but that doesn’t imply that it should be made to “account” for his particular genius – a move that risks trivialising his achievement and romanticising his persecution.  Reducing the invention of the digital computer to a compensation for love lost makes for an affecting back-story, but rather undercuts the magnitude of Turing’s contribution to our age.

 

Still, while one doesn’t have to be Alan Turing to find the script’s plays on pattern and code a little obvious, The Imitation Game remains engrossing for its full two-hour running time.  Sturdy craftsmanship, strong performances, and a perennially fascinating subject make it one of the more appealing pieces of awards-bait to emerge thus far this season.

 

David Turpin

 

12A (See IFCO for details)

114 minutes

The Imitation Game is released 14th November 2014

The Imitation Game – Official Website

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5CjKEFb-sM

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Cinema Review: In Fear

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DIR/WRI: Jeremy Lovering  PRO: Jamie Biddle, Nira Park  DOP: David Katznelson  ED: Jonathan Amos  CAST: Ian De Caestecker, Alice Englert, Allen Leech

 

Tom (De Caestecker) and Lucy (Englert) en route to a concert in rural Ireland decide to have a romantic stop-off at a hotel for a night. However their attempts to find the hotel prove extremely difficult as road signs seem to lead them around in a circle. These difficulties turn sinister as night begins to fall and Tom and Lucy find themselves lost in a maze with strange things happening around them- giant trees falling, visions of a man in a mask, their possessions disappearing then reappearing on the road. Who or what is the cause of these things? And why are Tom and Lucy being targeted?

 

The intrigue and eeriness of this set-up is heightened by Lovering’s decision to utilise an intimate aesthetic coupled with the type of improvisational acting more prominently seen in the work of Mike Leigh or in realist dramas. It is an inspired idea to juxtapose horror with this type of acting as, instead of the paper-thin characters and by the numbers performances often associated with low-budget horrors, this film does a great job in making the audience feel as though they are watching real people going through genuinely terrifying events. De Caestecker and Englert (daughter of Jane Campion) immerse themselves wholeheartedly into this and give strong, believable performances.

 

When I discussed the film recently with the director he suggested that British film-makers have a tendency not to do straight genre but rather an elevated form of genre. Lovering’s decision to juxtapose realism into his Horror certainly acts as an elevation of the type he described. As well as this Lovering’s approach to violence in the film is more Michael Haneke than Eli Roth. His emphasis on the nastiness and messiness of violence and the horrors of its consequences allows the film to be viewed not only as the visceral rollercoaster ride that it is but also as a commentary on horror films in general. Lovering admirably refuses to give the audience the payoff of blood and gore that they perhaps desire in this sort of film, and while not quite Funny Games, he forces us to consider quite why it is that we desire this type of violent payoff and Horror’s relationship with violence in general.

 

The film also calls to mind the 2001 shocker Jeepers Creepers. Most obviously in the similar set-up of  having protagonists being inexplicably stalked on the roads- in the case of Jeepers Creepers by a truck-, but also somewhat ironically by the fact that in that earlier film, the tension and intensity of its first act is squandered by a ludicrously unexpected supernatural twist. In Fear‘s only major fault is the opposite of that in that as the film progresses it moves away from the potentially otherworldly or unexplainable to a decidedly human form of evil that dispels the sort of uncanny horror that made something such as Ben Wheatley’s Kill List such a lingering, malevolent memory long after the credits had rolled.

 

Despite this In Fear remains a decidedly impressive piece of work that marks Lovering out as a talent to watch.

David Prendeville

16  (See IFCO for details)

85 mins

In Fear is released on 15th November 2013

 

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Cinema Review: The Sweeney

DIR: Nick Love • WRI: John Hodge, Nick Love • PRO: Allan Niblo, Rupert Preston, James Richardson, Christopher Simon, Felix Vossen • DOP: Simon Dennis • ED: James Herbert • DES: Morgan Kennedy • CAST: Damian Lewis, Hayley Atwell, Ray Winstone, Allen Leech

Writer/director Nick Love (The Business, The Football Factory, Outlaw) has made his living from showing the criminal’s side of things, so much so that even on The Sweeney, his first movie told from the vantage point of the law, the good guys still act like the bad guys. Based on the ’70s British TV show, this is story of Jack Regan (Ray Winstone), George Carter (Ben Drew, aka rapper Plan B) and the rest of the Flying Squad of London’s Metropolitan police, as they use any means necessary to get the job done. And that includes, in the first five minutes alone, bribing snitches with stolen gold, beating up crooks with baseball bats, and having affairs with married women.

Love does a good job of picking influences for his movie, knicking bits and bobs from Christopher Nolan (the Inception-esque score, as well as a plot section lifted straight out of The Dark Knight Rises) and Michael Mann (London is seen here as a beautiful city of endless skyscrapers of glass and metal, as well as a massive post-bank robbery shoot-out lifted straight out of Heat), and between the cinematography, editing and some well-paced action scenes, he’s made leaps and bounds in terms of filmmaking.

But when it comes to story-telling, he’s still got a lot of work to do. The very messy plot – a seemingly pointless murder at a robbery that may or may not involve a world class thief – never gets too involving, and the other story elements – Regan’s affair, his partnership with Carter, his bosses (including a wasted Damian Lewis) trying to shut down his department – are too by-the-numbers to be entertaining. Add into that some truly awful dialogue, as well as a staggeringly dead-eyed performance from Ben Drew, and what you end up with is 112 minutes that feels twice that long. Next time, stick to the directing end of things, Love. Leave the story writing to someone else.

Rory Cashin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
112 mins

The Sweeney is released on 12th September 2012

 

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