Sunday, January 11, 2015

SW Watches: The Imitation Game (2014)

Like a lot of historical drama, a quick Google search of the lead characters in the film will more or less fill you in on the details that might comprise the story.  And, of course, it's likely you've heard of The Turing Test and Turing Machines.  I dunno.  Maybe if you work in needlepoint or dog grooming it doesn't come up as often, but it's at least a bit in the zeitgeist where I work.

The movie stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing and includes Keira Knghtley, Mark Strong and Charles Dance (among many others).  Alex Lawther plays a young Turing, and should get some sort of junior award for one of the best performances I've seen from a young actor in a decade.

Aside from mentioning the A Plot of the development of the original Turing Machine, there's quite a bit else going on here, and the film delves into the complications of the person who is Alan Turing through a series of flashbacks and flash forwards, something of a framing device, etc... et al.

And so the movie manages to move past the (in my opinion) thrilling story of the development of the machine - something that's probably best left to documentary anyway, and into how it reflects the man who made it.  The A-Plot is subsumed and the dangling threads of what seemed to be a standard historical tale of a triumph of the Allies on a smaller front gives way to the story that's been there since the opening narration, transferring the A plot to the backdrop of the story.

The past several years, I've often felt like skipping historical dramas as I cannot understand the changes made that deviate from an accurate retelling, and I don't think you serve the audience when you change the facts of what happened just because the facts wouldn't maximize profit.  But sometimes it does work, even if the facts are condensed or that isn't exactly how it happened.  Sure, I'll be looking up more about the actual story, but - provided they haven't grossly changed facts - that the story takes on larger meaning when told with a bit of artistic license.

There's no question this is a mid-budget, character driven movie for a large audience, and it has the beats and structure of such a movie and doesn't really go in for ambiguity, but it's a strong film.  I wish more had been detailed, and I suspect much was left out, regarding the imagery and metaphor of code breaking vis-a-vis a young Turing's life in favor of narrative expediency.  In fairness to the movie, it's not like I didn't get it, but it felt that the relationship between man and machine had been hinted at without fully exploring the idea, leaving only the emotional residue of the idea behind.  And while that residue is maybe purely distilled, the movie's runtime certainly wasn't extraordinary, and I could have stayed with the movie a bit longer to see that fleshed out.  But that's not a complaint, that's a wish to see more within a movie, and so I'd recommend it, even if, as I said to Jamie as we walked out to car, "Jesus, that was heart-breaking."

Watched it at:  Slaughter Lane Alamo
Saw it with:  Jamie

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