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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Imitation Game 2014 * * * 1/2 Stars

The Imitation GameDirector: Morten Tyldum
Year: 2014
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode

Unless you have been living in a dust bowl somewhere, you've probably heard more about British actor Benedict Cumberbatch with each passing day. He doesn't have your vintage, movie star looks and a 20 million dollar per-pic salary. He does however, give a sufficient, multilayered performance in The Imitation Game (my latest review). His real life character portrayal (mathematician Alan Turing) is the torn lovechild of Russell Crowe's John Nash from A Beautiful Mind and Jesse Eisenberg's Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network. We're talking a tattered genius with a veritable secret shame to boot.

With a script by virtual unknown Graham Moore and a true story adaptation that's been kept in a vault for I guess, fifty years (according to the closing credits), The Imitation Game skillfully focuses on code breaking during the Second World War. Alan Turing, a timid yet intelligent pawn who's homosexuality ultimately led to his suicide by way of unfair persecution, is the chief codebreaker who designs a machine that no one and I mean no one, has ever seen before. Said machine succeeds in solving the Enigma Code (a method used to decipher secret messages in combative lore). Turing's posthumous contributions from what I've picked up, might have been the evolution of computer usage as we know it today. Government cover up? Maybe. Something that went completely over my head but in a good way? Oh ya betcha.

Right off the bat, The Imitation Game's look is glossy and it depicts the mid-1900's as anti-kitsch. With its perfected period detail, events are told in flashbacks over flashbacks with present day scenes occupying 10 percent of the flick's 114 minute running time. Although some of it is at times choppy, director Morten Tyldum gets away with Turing's disseminating journey anyway. In only his fourth effort behind the camera, Mort doesn't let his storytelling attributes fall into History Channel territory. He livens things up a bit with some solid, single edits. This keeps everything moving at a brisk pace. Basically, "Imitation Game" is to war what 2011's Moneyball is to sports. What we have here is fascinating, behind the scenes stuff. And like 1983's Wargames, this is a vehicle that doesn't need explosions, violent images, sexual innuendo, or harsh language to grab you.

As for the acting, it never relinquishes a false note. Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander and Charles Dance as Commander Denniston are effective playing antagonists who butt heads with the Cumberbatch character. In regards to Keira Knightley, she holds her own in a supporting role as Turing's mild love interest (the lovely Joan Clarke). She underplays her role slightly until emoting with a damnable ultimatum in the last twenty minutes of the proceedings. It is an Oscar moment of glory and it's a beauty.

In retrospect, The Academy Awards are coming in a few days and it looks like Boyhood might clean house. What blasphemy. This is not a mediocre film by any means but it rides by on its fainted novelty (actors aging in real time over a period of 12 years). The Imitation Game on the other hand, is the archetypal choice, a logical winner for best picture 2014. Like the aforementioned A Beautiful Mind, this is something about a protagonist who was socially inept, had few friends, and harbored a secret which ultimately interfered with his brilliance as a human being. "Imitation Game" captures Alan Turing's plight in a sophisticated and caring way. Its got that historical aspect which provokes critics to give four star ratings. It also has the ability to tickle Academy voters with the same tutorial. In essence, this coup d'etat of an exercise doesn't need to "imitate" greatness. It accomplishes that feat all on its own.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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