The Imitation Game
Director Morten Tyldum and writer Graham Moore have created a "prestige biopic" that checked all the right boxes: historically important, social injustice, underdog triumphs, LGBT relevant, a talented British cast and tragedy, but what is sorely lacking is a true heart admist all the filibuster.
Historical inaccuracies notwithstanding, and which was to be expected in any Hollywood biopic - a "prestige biopic" no less - these days, Moore and Tyldum did not really mine the rich, potential life of Alan Turing for any drama. Instead things just happen with a throwaway line or scene to justify. Irregardless of how ridiculously talented Charles Dance, Matthew Goode, Kiera Knightley, Mark Strong or Cumberbatch are, drama still needs context and conflict within the words or between actors.
The richest scenes are those that pit Cumberbatch against men of authority - Dance and Strong - and the two emotionally stirring scenes with Kinightley. Pity, they are far and in between. Instead, we are left with more pseudo-comedic scenes of Cumberbatch being socially inept - which though shows off his acting capabilities, adds minimally to the story.
Therein laid the biggest problem of this good movie: it lacked complexity. Complexity in terms of story telling as well as in its protagonist. Every moment on the screen seemed too calculated with each cog and wheel spinning as it should be.
The way Tyldum chose to frame the narrative was also too distracting and, ultimately, served no purpose to the greater good of the film.
As mentioned, one of the best thing about The Imitation Game was its amazing cast. Everybody was cast perfectly and acted with aplomb in their role.
Dance and Strong excelled in their roles and a closer examination of Turing's relationship - fictional or otherwise - with them would have been more exciting. This again showed Moore to be lacking the finesse in exploring the relationship aspects of his characters. He can dramatise the historical aspects of the story but stumbles on the emotional blocks.
Knightley is tasked with trying to carry the emotional weight of the movie, but her chemistry with Cumberbatch was superficial at most times except for the two most stirring scenes and one can't help wonder why didn't she tap into that well of emotional connectivity throughout?
Goode is "a cad" as one character described him. A very fine actor who was unfortunately saddled with an one-dimensional character, but at least he played the cad well.
Then now we have Mr B Cumberbatch. A very finely, nuanced portrayal of a conflicted man who gave a lot more than what the script has for him and for that, it elevated him above the whole thing. A bit of The Iron Lady syndrome going on here. However, one thing that may dampen his chance of lifting the Oscars is that Cumberbatch lacked complexity. For all his finesse and nuanced-performance, Cumberbatch's Turing lacked layers and intricacies. He did better than what the script offered him, but in the end, the script itself betrayed him.
Alexandre Desplat is on a roll again giving another tremendously effective score after The Grand Budapest Hotel, Godzilla, and the upcoming Angelina Jolie's Unbroken. The orchestra strings soared and hummed - an invisible bystander - as Turing's life goes through the ups and downs. Cinematographer Óscar Faura shot the scenes in Bletchley Park and prison beautifully, especially in his presentation of the Bombe "Christopher".
In the end, this was a good movie. One of the best of 2014, but it's far from great and is very unlikely to win for anything other than Best Actor, though multiple nominations are almost a sure thing.