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: Headhunters

Paris Hilton with designer dog

DIR: Morten Tyldum • WRI: Lars Gudmestad, Ulf Ryberg • PRO: Marianne Gray, Asle Vatn • DOP: John Andreas Andersen • ED: Vidar Flataukan • DES: Nina Bjerch Andresen • Cast: Aksel Hennie, Synnove Macody Lund, Julie R. Olgaard

While all of the promotional material for this movie would have you believe that this is the new The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, in reality this is a far more entertaining, if also far slighter, entry into the Scandinavian best-selling adaptation league.

Roger Brown (Christopher Walken/Steve Buscemi love-child lookalike Aksel Hennie) seems to have the perfect life; magnificent home, an out-of-his-league wife (Synnøve Macody Lund), and a good job as a renowned recruitment consultant. But Brown is forthcoming about his own, well, shortcomings; he suffers from ‘Small Man Syndrome’ (his wife is at least 12 inches taller than him), and to help make up for this, Brown doubles as an art-thief, which helps keep him and his spoiled wife in the life they’ve become accustomed to.

Then Brown meets the charming, ridiculously handsome Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who seems to be a dream come true, as he just happens to perfectly suit a multi-million Euro making position that Brown needs to fill, and he just happens to have a near-priceless painting just hanging about in his attic. But, like all things – seems too good to be true…

Once Brown nicks the painting, the film kicks into high-gear and does not let up until the end credits roll. It’s impossible to say much more about the movie without giving away some of it’s neck-snapping plot twists, but to say that Brown is put through the wringer is an understatement. Some of the plot convolutions verge on ridiculous, and it weighs too heavily on coincidence on more than one occasion, but the entire thing is handled with such a darkly humorous touch that it’s hard to fault some of it’s less serious moments.

Already being remade by the Hollywood machine, this will not get people talking the same way Dragon Tattoo did, but it is far more likely to be something you’ll rewatch on DVD without it feeling like a psychological endurance test.

Rory Cashin

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Headhunters is released on 6th April 2012

Headhunters – Official Website

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