I finally saw The Imitation Game tonight!
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. I was absorbed throughout the movie, I thought it had an interesting story to tell, and I thought that the ensemble cast was absolutely excellent.
I do think the film had a few major issues, though.
Full warning - there are SPOILERS AHEAD for the film, so if you haven't seen it yet, you don't know the exact history, and you don't want it ruined for you, you should probably stop reading here.
First and foremost, it absolutely couldn't decide if it was an ensemble piece about a team that was led by Alan Turing, or if it was a biopic about Alan Turing that also featured his team... and because it was caught somewhere in the middle, it didn't quite to justice to being either type of film. I feel like I didn't quite learn enough about Alan Turing (his home life as a child?? his realization that he's gay?? what the hell he was doing at home when the police came by at the beginning of the film??), but there were stories about the rest of his team that were picked up and then just dropped to put more focus on Alan (Peter and Alan's relationship more than a month after his brother died?? what happened to John Cairncross, you know, as a spy?? Joan and Alan's relationship after he breaks off their engagement??).
I'm also not entirely sure I'm satisfied with Denniston as the antagonist of the film. He was a perfectly rational man. He disliked Alan for going over his head on a major decision, and then the program didn't seem to be producing results, so he was naturally angry about it. Nothing he did was unreasonable. It also seems wrong that, in a film about WWII where the entire goal is to break a Nazi code, the Nazis themselves aren't the antagonists. And then Denniston just... disappears when the program starts working. We aren't even granted the satisfaction of a scene where he tells Alan that he was right. Not even a scene where you see him telling someone else that Alan was right. He's just... gone. And it irks at me.
Finally, I'm genuinely not sure who I was supposed to identify with in this film. Alan? Obviously not, they put a lot of time and effort into making it clear that he cannot be understood by anybody, the same way he has huge issues understanding anybody else. And then the rest of the cast is a Soviet spy, a guy whose brother dies, Alan's rival who doesn't really do much aside from be his rival, and Joan who doesn't even arrive until the second act. And I also have to ask... where were the people of color? Because there was not a single one in this film. Now, it's true that the racial makeup of the UK is different than it is in the US, but the idea that there was literally no one anywhere who wasn't white is ridiculous. And the women? There were four women who had lines in the entire movie, two of them were Under Five-s, one was only in one scene, and the last one was Keira Knightley. Sure, it's a biopic so you can't just make more female characters... but there could have been at least a little more focus on the women. It was overall an alienating film for anyone who isn't a white male.
I feel like I'm dumping on The Imitation Game a lot here, and I don't mean to say that it's a terrible film and it's not worth your time! It has many, many strong parts to it, like...
- The entire ensemble is excellent. Not only is every performance incredibly strong, but they all work together so well that you can feel the chemistry between the entire cast. They are the kind of ensemble who make me sad that it's only SAG that has an award for Best Ensemble, because it deserves to be recognized more than that.
- Benedict Cumberbatch gives a wonderful, subtle performance that shows off Turing's physicality perfectly. Maybe it helps that I'm so used to seeing Cumberbatch in other roles where he moves more gracefully, but it just kept striking me how well he embodied Turing. Not to mention, of course, his ability to make someone who thinks so differently from the rest of us understandable by any viewer.
- It weaves together the three stories of Turing in jail, Turing during the war, and Turing at school so masterfully that I almost didn't even notice when it would switch from one to another, in the best possible way. There are three very distinct, very full stories there, each of which could serve as a film on its own, and they're all brought together into this one movie and it works.
- Alexandre Desplat's score is, of course, gorgeous. I'm listening to it now, in fact, as I'm typing this!
I also can't help but remember everything that Turing did in his lifetime after this film, and I really don't think I'll forget it in the morning. All the way down to the fact that I'm writing this and you're reading it on a "Turing Machine."
Overall, I really do think The Imitation Game was a very good film! I'm just not sure it's exactly a Best Picture film the way it's been nominated.