The Imitation Game

imitation-game-benedict-cumberbatch_612x380

 

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

Share

Before I Go To Sleep

download-2110

DIR: Rowan Joffe • WRI: Thomas McCarthy • PRO: Mark Gill, Avi Lerner, Liza Marshall, Matthew O’Toole, Ridley Scott • DOP: Ben Davis   ED:  Melanie Oliver • DES: Kave Quinn MUS: Ed Shearmur • Cast: Nicole Kidman, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Anne-Marie Duff

Rowan Joffes adaptation of S.J. Watson’s bestseller Before I Go To Sleep uses the same premise as Mememto and Fifty First Dates, one a thriller the other a romantic comedy.  I love how pliable a premise can be.

 

Christine (Kidman) wakes up every day with no idea who she is, her memory robbed because of a car accident ten years earlier; according to her husband Ben (Firth), a ‘stranger’ she has been living with for a long time. Imagine how worn out he has been explaining her predicament every day for all this time, even if he was lying he’d start to believe it himself. Kidman accepts this scenario, until Dr Nash (Strong) enters the picture, a psychologist who has a different story to tell. So somebody is telling porkies. Christine doesn’t know who to trust and has to learn the truth whilst struggling with her memory problem; a bit like Guy Pearce in Memento, only instead of a succession of tattoos to help aid her detective mission she relies on Post-it notes and video recordings.

 

Essentially a three hander, with Kidman worrying who is the villain of the two male leads, Before I Go To Sleep builds some interesting tension and keeps you guessing, but when all the cards are finally played, it breaks under the weight of its own expectations.  lso, its familiarity is distracting. Apart from the films mentioned already, it also riffs off Hitchcock’s Notorious. And why not?  But despite some solid work from those involved on screen, and Joffe as director, the script does not hold onto you because of the very nature of those comparisons – or perhaps I just watch too many films. Strong gets the terrible task of being Mr Exposition once too often and Kidman seems to be going through the A,B,Cs that she used as far back as Dead Calm, don’t get me wrong, she is a fine actor. Firth (for some reason of my own, not one of my favourite actors) does a version of Firth.

 

Joffe holds the reins adequately enough, but his clunky script replete with plot holes and similarities to other films may make it too distracting and derivative for audiences to buy into its ideas, or as I said, maybe I just watch too many movies.

Paul Farren

15A (See IFCO for details)

91 minutes

Before I Go To Sleep is released 5th September

Share

Cinema Review: Welcome To The Punch

url

 

DIR/WRI: Eran Creevy • • PRO: Rory Aitken, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones , Ben Pugh, • DOP: Ed Wild • ED: Chris Gill •  DES: Crispian Sallis • CAST: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough

 

British crime thrillers, by and large, are more miss than hit. There are staples of the genre – it must feature Vinny Jones. It must involved tailored suits. A section of it must be set in Canary Wharf. A Jaguar must be visible in at least one shot. An upcoming indie band must perform / be used as extras. With Welcome To The Punch, Eran Creevy is attempting to throw out the rulebook of British crime thrillers – and instead use the American rulebook. Director Eran Creevy’s previous work, Shifty, was very much of the British school of crime drama. It’s interesting to see him change from a Guy Ritchie-esque position and adopt a far more glossier image for his second film.

 

The story follows Max Lewinsky, played by James McAvoy and Jacob Sternwood, played by Mark Strong. McAvoy is a London detective who’s obsessed with capturing his arch-nemesis, Strong, after he shot and injured him and escaped to Iceland. Following a botched deal involving Strong’s on-screen son, he returns to London and becomes embroiled in a labyrinthine plot involving guns, politicians and crooked cops. On paper, the plot seems like it could work. Crime dramas, by and large, need a large frame to work in and for them to be not be bogged down in message. The story is the story, in other words. Here, however, Creevy’s screenplay falters as the plot is too clever for its own good. Instead of having an emotional line with a simple, thought-out plot, Welcome To The Punch quickly spins out of control and becomes undecipherable and, ultimately, forgettable. James McAvoy and Mark Strong, both established actors, are more than capable of giving their roles meaning and gravitas. Unfortunately, here, there is little to help them along. The initial setup, pitching McAvoy and Strong, as blood enemies who are forced to work together, falters very quickly.

 

Strong, who has played hardened, remorseless criminals in the past, is far more forgiving and almost tender in this than you’d expect the character to be. It’s true, Creevy’s script may have been attempting to change our expectations; pitching the criminal as a more tender creature. However, the same role was imbued with much more skill by Robert DeNiro in Heat than it was here. That’s not to say that Mark Strong isn’t as effective an actor or that he can’t deliver. Quite the opposite. Strong, given good material, can work just as well as Robert DeNiro. Here, unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. McAvoy, likewise, is drawn as a twitchy, hard-edged cop with an obsessive streak – but the script doesn’t give him the proper amount of time to fully realise the character. The supporting cast, made up of Andrea Riseborough, David Morrisey and Peter Mullan, all turn in good performances. Peter Mullan, in particular, is always a treat to watch. Here playing Strong’s friend, Mullan gives the film’s criminal characters that much-needed sense of ruthlessness that Strong fails to deliver.

 

It’s not all bad, however. Creevy’s visual style with Welcome To The Punch is fantastic. London has never looked so slick and well-photographed; drenched in cool, icy blues and using high-angle shots reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Heat – which is a huge influence on this film. One scene in particular, involving McAvoy, Strong and Mullan and a sofa, stands out as a particularly effective scene. Creevy’s sense of pacing, attention to detail and overall visual style is impressive – it’s just a real shame that that screenplay wasn’t up to the same high standard. Welcome To The Punch is a visually-entertaining but overall hollow experience. If only he had handed over the script to someone else instead of taking it all on, it would have been a far more enjoyable film. As it is, Welcome To The Punch is a missed opportunity to write the next chapter in British crime films.

Brian Lloyd

15A (see IFCO website for details)

100mins
Welcome To The Punch is released on 15th March 2013

Welcome To The Punch– Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rr-O_v0mlx8

Share