Thursday, 22 January 2015

Movie Review: The Imitation Game

Time for another movie review! This week, I saw The Imitation Game.

The Imitation Game is based on the real story of British mathematician Alan Turing, who is employed to decipher the code the Germans use for all major communication during the second world war.
It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, and, as the female lead, Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke.

The movie begins with a narration from Benedict Cumberbatch that appears to be addressing all viewers directly. He urges to listen and watch closely, and pay attention. At the same time, we learn that we are in 1951, and the police are inquiring about a robbery in Alan Turing's home. Alan dismisses them, and they suspect him of keeping a secret.
After a jump back in time, Alan is shown at his job interview in Bletchley Park in 1939. He behaves unintentionally funny and inappropriate, but soon convinces the Commander that his advanced skills as a mathematician are much needed for the classified task, which is to decipher the German Enigma code. Alan is accepted into the team of five others, who have to work against time in order to help the Allies win the war. The combination possibilities for this code are of such a huge number that deciphering it appears to be impossible.
After a unsuccessful start, Alan is put in charge of the group and finds a new valuable team member in Joan. At the same time he conducts that to solve a machine's code, he will have to build his own machine, which he lovingly calls Christopher. He is not believed to succeed, and has to experience a couple of heavy set backs. All the while we learn through flashbacks and flash-forwards what happened in Alan's past and shortly after the war. While still working to crack the code, Alan and Joan become close friends and eventually agree to marry out of convenience. In the meantime Alan's homosexuality is revealed.
It takes a long time, but eventually they figure out how to decipher the German code. In the overwhelming feeling of victory Alan remains rational and explains they cannot simply prevent every German attack in the future. That would obviously lead to the Germans learning that their code had been cracked, which they could not let happen. From then on, the cracking of the code is being kept a secret, and which attacks to prevent and which not is decided on the basis of statistics and probability.
Even after their glorious success, Alan's homosexuality is discovered and he is made to undergo hormonal treatment, a fate Alan accepts rather than prison, because it means he can still continue his work. The treatment slowly devastates and wrecks him, and Alan commits suicide about a year after the beginning of his treatment.
The viewers are then informed about how Alan was one of many who had to undergo such procedures when homosexuality was still considered a crime, and at the same time how valuable Alan's work was not only for the ending of World War II, but also modern science, as his machine was one of the first models of modern computers.

During the whole movie, jumps in time are used to give the viewer a more complex and varied way of learning about everything that happens. They are very comprehensible and make the story more detailed.
Especially learning about Alan's past makes one understand his character traits a lot better. Early bullying as well as the discovery that he was different shaped his personality. The death of his close friend during his youth, and how rational and repressing he reacts is shown in a great way, and evokes a lot of sympathy for his character.
In addition to that, scenes of actual war recordings are included in the movie to give a lot of authenticity. It is easy to forget what they are actually dealing with when simply being secluded at Bletchley Park, but those little scenes make it a lot more real and dreadful.

What definitely has to be kept in mind with this movie is that it dramatises historic events, and does not always stay true to the definite facts. Important parts of history are being omitted, which is very understandable with the in some ways limited possibilities of a movie and the criteria the story has to match. Nonetheless, it is based on very real events.
What I find shocking is that in all the ways World War II is being taught at school, Alan Turing is mentioned almost never. The tragic story that was his life is something that should not be neglected when talking about the events of the war in my opinion, as he influenced not only that, but many other areas as well.

Some critical voices find this movie to be too patriotic, but I definitely disagree with that. Of course, Alan working for his country during the war and the victory he achieves for them can't help but be patriotic in a way. But in the end, it is that same country that turns against him and ultimately forces him into suicide. This being shown definitely makes you reconsider the patriotic aspect.

I was incredibly touched by the movie, and it made me cry at several points. On the other hand, it also made me laugh quite often. The emotions varied all film long, and were not one-sided at all. A whole spectrum of feelings is shown and at the same time evoked in the audience.
The film captures your attention and makes you forget everything else around you. It would have taken a lot for me to take my eyes off the screen for even a moment, that's how captured I was. 
It's not only moving but also full of suspense. The race against the time, their need to figure out the code; it's very thrilling and exciting. 
The tragedy of Alan Turing's story is told in such a heart-wrenching way that it quite literally makes you rejoice as he does, and also ache as he does. It is very inspiring and makes you think. The whole audience was deeply impressed by the story and the portrayal, and at the end, everyone even clapped. It was the first time that I ever experienced something like this, the audience clapping after a movie, and I walked out of there, and felt ready to cry more. 

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing as a very nuanced person, who is brilliant in his topic of expertise, but then lacks personal skills in other ways. A lot of scenes are full of comedy caused by his ignorance and oblivious behaviour towards other people. His arrogance doesn't make you like him any less, though. On the contrary, he is this extremely precious person whom you can't help but sympathise with. His life story is incredibly tragic, which is very well portrayed by the movie.
Joan, as depicted by Keira Knightley, is also a very interesting character. She is very strong and does not dumb herself down at all. In an all-male environment she proves herself to be worthy of the position, and does not let anyone tell her differently, even in a time when feminism was far from developed. Her character develops a lot during the movie, and leaves her being a person who knows what she wants and who is not afraid to put herself first.

Both actors have received an Oscar nomination for their work in this movie, in addition to six other categories the whole film is nominated for, including best picture, best directing and best screenplay. These nominations and in any case an actual win are highly deserved in my opinion. The movie had everything that a very good one needs. It's very moving and touching, is acted superbly and tells a inspiring and important story. People should know about his life and the way he was treated, it's a story to be spread, and luckily that's exactly what the movie does.

Has anyone of you seen The Imitation Game?

xx, Misch

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