“The Imitation Game”
Director Morten Tyldum has brought us a cinematic masterpiece with “The Imitation Game.” Focusing on the emotionally tortured English mathematician Alan Turing, you watch a gay man play the leading role in cracking the Nazis’ Enigma code during World War II. Socially inept and devoid of any concept of how to form a friendship, he develops the world’s first computer as he leads a top-secret government crew at Bletchley Park to try to end that savage conflict.
The film explores several periods of Turing’s life. It begins in 1951, when his role as a war hero remained completely disguised by his own government. He ends up being criminally prosecuted based on nothing more than his sexuality.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s re-creation of the complex Turing is certain to be recognized at Oscar time. Though a math genius, he literally doesn’t know how to say “hi” or “thank you.” And yet, despite his shortcomings, you end up embracing Cumberbatch’s Turing in the same manner that you would an emotionally disturbed yet loveable young relative.
Keira Knightley stands toe-to-toe with Cumberbatch, here playing Joan Clarke, the only female member of the clandestine group. Trying to make a name for herself at a time when women were generally offered a back seat on society’s bus, she matches her performance in this year’s “Begin Again.” She deserves an Oscar nomination for either film.
There are a number of other superlative performances, including Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander, a central player on Turing’s team. Initially despising Turing for being a leader who couldn’t lead, he eventually sees the significance of always protecting Turing’s back.
Other memorable performances come from Charles Dance, here playing Commander Denniston, and Mark Strong as the intelligence chief, Stewart Menzies. Reporting only to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Denniston dominates every scene as a man who had both the courage to hire Turing and thereafter longed to do little more than fire him. Strong’s Menzies is smart enough to recognize Turing as the one man who could shorten this war, yet he also orders Turing’s machine (named Christopher by Turing) and all associated documents destroyed following VE Day. Thanks to him, the entire group matriculates back into English society where no one has the slightest idea of their accomplishments. If you have spoken to anyone who has seen “The Imitation Game,” I’m sure all of them have stressed how they cried at various times during the last portion of the film. An eccentric math teacher in post-war London, Turing is caught in an unlawful sexual act where he is prosecuted and forced to experience chemical castration. Living alone with a reconstructed computer (again called Christopher) as his only close friend, the moment when Clarke surprises him with a visit is far too emotionally crushing to describe.
It is interesting that two of the best movies released in 2014 are films dealing with public condemnation of homosexuals in London as late as 1984. In both “The Imitation Game” and “Pride,” we watch citizens of the Western world suffer discrimination by their own government based on nothing more than their sexuality.
Politicians in Indiana who are proposing legislation to allow similar discrimination against gays in 2015 should see these two movies. We remain our own worst enemies if we don’t finally recognize that all citizens deserve equal treatment under the law.
“Into the Woods”
For those of you who love musicals on Broadway, “Into the Woods” may qualify as your favorite film of 2014. The music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim are both amusing and breathtaking, and the film takes you to an emotional level that many of you simply won’t anticipate.
There is not one performance that doesn’t deserve massive praise. A newcomer named Meryl Streep (OK, forget her 18 Oscar nominations) is beyond belief as the witch who curses her married neighbors, played with joy by James Corden and Emily Blunt. The witch has cast a spell that prevents them from having a child, and the film evolves into an adventure to satisfy the witch’s needs.
Corden may be unfamiliar to many of you, but that would give you reason to finally see this year’s wonderful “Begin Again.” Blunt may deserve Oscar recognition, as she adds a beautiful voice to other exceptional performances as in this year’s “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Looper” (2012), and “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (2011), among others. As the adventure unfolds, Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella wants to escape her wicked stepmother (Christine Baranski) and sisters to get to the Royal Ball, and her trip takes some unexpected turns. The prince, played with spunk by Chris Pine, may not prove to be the love of her life. As the prince said to great laughter in the audience, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.”
Along the way our crowd widens to include Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy); Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and his magic beans; Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford); Jack’s mother (Tracey Ullman) and Johnny Depp in a small role as a very hungry wolf living in the woods. Forget any previous tales you have read about these fictional characters, as the film will treat you to several fantastic surprises.
Much like 2012’s superb “Les Miserables,” the songs frequently serve as dialogue. And please refrain from saying, “Oh no,” as this literally allows the movie to wrap its arms around you. Given that many of the characters end up suffering tragic ends, this proves to be a cinematic experience that amounts to a powerful adult film masked as a kids’ movie.
The movie explores the meaning of love, friendship and family. While profoundly funny at times, it touches your heart to the point that it is hard not to wipe away tears at the end. Few movies succeed in touching me more deeply than those that leave me weeping. See it, as it will clearly clamor for attention at Oscar time.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.