Last night, I walked into the movie theatre fully aware of what happened to Alan Turing in the end, so I was prepared to shed a tear or two. Little did I know, I’d walk out heartbroken, reminded of my years of being bullied at school.
Since I take pride in my love for Benedict Cumberbatch, I won’t even try and hide the fact a big part of this review — let’s not even call it a review, let’s just call it a bunch-O-thoughts — is going to be about his incredible talent which all of us CumberCookies are so familiar and in love with. I’m not saying the whole cast didn’t do an excellent job, oh no. Matthew Goode was simply perfect for the role of the slightly douchy, brilliant, arrogant chess master Hugh Alexander. Knowing they’re good friends in real life with Cumberbatch made watching their on-screen quarrelling extremely enjoyable. Sparks, man. Sparks of brilliance.
Not to mention mister Charles Dance. The amount of charisma this guy possesses would be enough to share between three actors and they’d still be amazing. Allen Leech is always a joy to watch and I won’t even begin to list the reasons why I love Mark Strong. Keira Knightley isn’t usually my number one choice, hell, not even in my top ten, but after seeing the movie I can’t really imagine anyone else for the role. The chemistry between her and Cumberbatch is so, so adorable. Having Keira rushing around in the WWII era frocks also caused me to have heavy flashbacks of one of the greatest films of all time, Atonement. (I couldn’t help but to compose little crossover story lines in my head, especially when they show crowds being rushed into the underground tunnels during bombings. “Oh, this is when Robbie reaches Dunkirk Beach and that amazing shot happens!”)
Anyway. I’d like to talk about a very small thing that caught my eye. It isn’t very important plotwise, but most likely was a big deal in Turing’s life, and certainly one of my favourite things about Benedict’s performance. As someone who was heavily bullied through early school years all the way until college, it really got to me.
It’s the way Benedict played Alan’s reactions to threat of violence and insults. The flinching, apparent pain on his face, shortness of breath / inability to speak when upset, all that. I recognise that deeply set instinct, the timidness that you just can’t get rid of no matter how much you’ve grown, learned about life and told yourself that it’s over and you can now stand up for yourself. It’s one of the hardest things to shake off, that inner child who’s terrified of being left out and ridiculed.
Knowing so many people have to go through something like that in their lives for all sorts of stupid reasons will always and forever break my heart. Knowing it happened to a man like this, to someone who saved millions of lives is even worse. And for Turing, it happened twice. First at school and then again later in life as he was being shamed in a very public manner for being gay, and tortured with painful treatments. And as if the thought of that alone doesn’t hurt you enough, it hurts again on a slightly different level when it’s your favourite actor playing it. Someone you care about on a very (I admit it) odd but deep, fangirly way. So, ow.
Being able to bring such delicate, important details into your performance is what amazes me time after time after time.
Now, I’ve seen reviews complaining about the movie being too careful, too polished, too risk-free. Yes, the plot was pretty simple to follow (despite the complicated cryptography shenanigans and the early computer technology that was really going on at the time). Yes, they shyed away from showing any actual scenes between Turing and other men. And so on and so on. So, it was pretty simple and easy to watch. I just don’t see how that’s a bad thing. An important story written and told in a way that appeal to bigger masses? Swell!
Cumberbatch himself has said, when asked about what he thinks about the Oscar buzz:
“If it gets people to see the film, frankly that’s all I care about. It’s very early on and there are a number of other extraordinary performances and films that we haven’t seen yet and that are being talked about. If it creates an interest for people to see the film then that’s fantastic because it makes our jobs as storytellers much easier, and more importantly for me, having had some experience with this extraordinary man I really want his story to be known as broadly as possible.”
In conclusion: The Imitation Game is a beautiful movie about a very extraordinary man. At times it’s funny, and then it’s sad, but it will tell you an incredible story that shouldn’t be ignored.
A bunch of good links:
- Benedict’s quote from Belfast Telegraph
- Alan Turing on Wikipedia
- A great report from the SAG screening, focusing heavily on Benedict’s acting methods
- The Imitation Game stunning soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat on Spotify