The Imitation Game (2014) - Can't Stop the Movies
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The Imitation Game (2014)

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While the battles of World War II raged on, a different struggle was going on in England.  Alan Turing, genius mathematician and cryptanalyst, worked in Hut 8 to crack the structure of German communication codes.  The Imitation Game looks at this wartime struggle, his early days in school, and his post-war bigotry of those he worked to protect.

Wall of codeThe Imitation Game is the hardest type of movie to review because it is so close to being great it is frustrating. The film ran for 2 hours and I was engrossed the whole time and learned a lot about Turing and his contributions to the war but as the credits rolled, I had the feeling of “is that it?” which has nagged at me since I had seen the film. It is the equivalent of a ball being hit really hard in baseball and having no doubt it is going to be a home run, only at the end for it to hit the top of the wall and become a triple. The movie is still in the top 10 or 15 movies of 2014 but it should have been in the top 3-5.

The first really great thing about the movie is the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch. While I have been a fan of his since he started on the BBC series Sherlock, this is the first time a movie has used him to his full potential. Even though his performance was a mixture of his Sherlock and a bit of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, it still was very effective. Turing was a bit of an ass but also had deep and conflicted emotions, he could be cold but then be warm, to full of himself and then very sheepish. The character couldn’t be pegged as one thing and Cumberbatch does a wonderful job conveying on these conflicting emotions and baggage.

Cumberbatch, a charming antihero on the small screen, shows he's capable of greater complexity on the big screen.

Cumberbatch, a charming anti-hero on the small screen, shows he's capable of greater complexity on the big screen.

The movie is also a one person show in that Cumberbatch has to do most of the heavy lifting and he carries the load well. There are scenes where he has to grapple with horrible consequences to his actions that were for the greater good and he has a way of showing in his eyes the toll that it is taking and is going to take on him. I saw this film the night before Oscar nominations and when I woke up to see Cumberbatch received a nomination, I thought it was fully deserved.

Beyond the wonderful performance of Cumberbatch the rest of the movie is a well made film the likes of which we have seen before. It tells the story of a complex man in complex times who changes the course of history. Like I said, it is well made and goes through the motions with expert craft and skill but it never reaches that next level that pushes it into amazing. Lincoln and The Social Network both told a small period of time in a person’s life and had the same story beats as Imitation Game but both of those seemed to find another gear that The Imitation Game does not find.

One of the few flaws of The Imitation Game, it assumes we're as familiar with the end of Turing's story as the end of World War II.

One of the flaws of The Imitation Game, assuming we're as familiar with the end of Turing's story as the end of WW II.

I think the main reason I feel like the movie misses that last gear that would have shot this movie into a classic is the abrupt ending to the film. This article sums up my feelings perfectly on the problem and it is what handcuffs the film. I would have been fine with an extra 20 minutes at the end of the film to show the implications of living as a gay man in England at this time. It is such an interesting idea and the movie could have done so much with it but it just ENDS without much of a resolution or a conclusion to the story that the filmmakers were telling.

While it does have these problems, hitting a triple is not a bad thing and the movie is a very well done film. The screenplay, direction, set design, pace and acting are all top-notch but just a bit off from where it could be. The movie is definitely worth a watch and it leaves you thinking about the injustices that Turing dealt with in his time. Also don’t be surprised that if the movie leaves you wanting just a bit more.

Tail - The Imitation GameThe Imitation Game (2014)

Directed by Morten Tyldum.
Screenplay written by Graham Moore.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Posted by Ryan

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  1. Good review Ryan. It’s an alright movie. If also incredibly by-the-numbers and ordinary.

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