Sunday, November 23, 2014

Movie Review: 'The Imitation Game' Imitates Many Like it Before

The Benedict Cumberbatch Club decrypts German messages in "The Imitation Game"
Weinstein Company
The Imitation Game (2014, Directed by Morten Tyldum. U.K./U.S.A., English, Color, 114 minutes) As I headed into the theater to watch this film I did not plan to like it. From one viewing of the trailer a couple of months back I knew it was going to be a run-of-the-mill historic cliche about winning the war against the Nazis. When I left the theater, I got exactly that, but with an (unnecessary) brief look at the history of LGBT rights in the U.K., and a stupidly forced love story. It was everything I was expecting and more... and not in a good way.

This is the true story of a group of codebreakers at Bletchley Park in England assigned to decipher German messages from a machine called the Enigma. The eccentric and arrogantly annoying Alan Turing heads the group who would eventually end the war by at least two years because of their successful efforts. Their accomplishments should be heralded, but not this film.

While critic reviews are positive and audiences at film fests give it its top honors, this cliche-ridden film is nothing different than what has been shown over and over again.

1) What's the message? This film has no idea what it is trying to say or do, and that's because of its sloppy screenplay. It balances between Alan Turing's (Cumberbatch) obsession to crack the German codes they get and making a big deal out of his gay lifestyle. Is the film giving Turing his due diligence after being shamed for his lifestyle? Is the film about a war hero? Is the film about gay rights? Is it telling me that the scale of achievements are determined by a person's sexual orientation? Either focus on Turing and his group solving the cryptic messages, or do a whole biopic about his life. Don't attempt to do both like this film does because it turns into two half-assed efforts instead of one.

2) Cut and paste characters Like any movie where a group is thrust together to solve an important problem, there's the arrogant leader (Alan Turing) and the others they consider to be not as smart. And why not throw in a girl to make it interesting — yes, that part's real, I know that. This kind of played off like the group from "The Big Bang Theory" thrown into WWII to use their smarts to decrypt the messages. And what would a story like this be without the top official who organized the group who seems to doubt them every step of the way?

3) The answer's in the script Because who doesn't believe in a bunch of written cliches? As if the convenience of mismatched characters isn't bad enough, so little gets accomplished throughout until the script says so. These people are extraordinary people, but they don't appear to be smart enough until it's cued up. And since they appear to move so slowly accomplishing anything, the man who put the group together, of course, plans to fire Alan. Who didn't see THAT coming? Their big break comes when the script introduces a character for five minutes who describes a pattern in the messages that then leads to the first great decipher.

4) Gay? Straight? Who cares? This movie spends way too much time dealing with Turing's sexuality orientation. Yes, it is the fact that he was a homosexual that he was discredited and ordered to undergo a medicinal castration, but it has no weight in this movie. In the last hour there is a new discussion about every 10 minutes on whether Alan is gay or not. Who cares? The film is dictating to us that we still only focus on people's differences than the greatness they achieve everyday, it doesn't matter who they are.

5) Overblown exposure The success of this film will be attributed to Cumberbatch's fanbase, who I call the Bene-dickriders. He's so basic and at par with how he should be for a role like Alan as it was written. I guess providing a brief stutter, a few scenes of crying and the fact that he plays a gay person makes his performance one that Richard Corliss said in his review for Time should bring a "Cumberbatch" of awards. Please. Playing a role that wreaks of sympathy as a result of history's mistakes does not make for an awards-worthy role.

"The Imitation Game" was just as ridiculous an attempt to highlight one man's greatness as "The Theory of Everything".

Rating: D-

1 comment:

  1. I must say I was shocked to discover later on that "The Imitation Game" took liberties with Alan Turing's story, surely the first Hollywood biopic in history to do so, but my outrage wasn't enough for me to deduct any points to this review. Still, it was a trifle unsettling.

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