Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.
Saturday, 15 November 2014
Benedict cracks the Oscar code ?
THE IMITATION GAME, 2014. Benedict Cumberbatch makes his Oscar bid as the persecuted gay mathematician Alan Turing, whose obsessive efforts in cracking the Enigma code, and hastening the end of World War Two, were met with chilling ingratitude by the British government. Morten Tyldum's widescreen film has a handsome sheen, a great cast and Keira Knightley on spry form (and looking nicely in period in those Forties fashions, even if maybe too young and too pretty) as Joan Clarke, a crossword whiz who becomes Turing's colleague - the only woman it seems cracking codes, but it might have delved further into his private conflict, and what it meant to him, particularly after the war. He and Joan do get engaged for a while, but it not built up as a romance.
Cumberbatch - is it his first leading role after all those appearances in films like WAR HORSE and 12 YEARS A SLAVE, TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY and of course his SHERLOCK for the BBC - catches Turing perfectly, but we see nothing of his private life, or that robbery that gets the police involved in the first place - as we never see him with a pick-up or involved with any man. We only get those flashbacks to his schooldays and that friendship with fellow pupil Christopher - the name he gives to his code-breaking machine. But how does this machine work? Well, it is a film, not a documentary .... and it certainly knocks 2001's ENIGMA into a cocked hat, with its fictional hero Tom Jericho, and where Turing is not mentioned at all - Jericho being the heterosexual version of him served up by novelist Robert Harris - no friend of the gays in his novels (not even in the Ancient Rome of his "Pompeii").
Charles Dance and Mark Strong score as the Bletchley Park overseers, while Matthew Goode and DOWNTON's Allen Leech are effective as part of the code-breaking team. We see Turing's eccentricities and inability to tell a joke or mix in with the others and their growing respect for him. Rory Kinnear is the dogged detective (in the '50s scenes) looking for the real story on Turing whose classification documents have disappeared and he thinks he is tracking down a spy, not a naive homosexual who goes to the police after being robbed, back in that bleak early Fifties time for gays.
As a true story fictionalised for the cinema (it could be this year's THE KING'S SPEECH, another prestige film, which I didn't actually like) it is effective, and we get nice snippets of the war going on away from these Bletchley huts, and the end credits fill us in on Turing's fate (his suicide in 1954 after chemical castration instead of a prison sentence) and how his prototype computers helped end the war, and his eventual Royal Pardon .... More on Turing at label.
Next Award season is hotting up, not only Cumberbatch as Turing but Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking (THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING - caught the trailer for that today), a career-best from Jake Gyllenhaal and maybe Tom Hardy (THE DROP), and Timothy Spall as MR TURNER and thats just for starters - there's also Channing's FOXCATCHER. Cumberbatch has already worked on 10 projects since completing his Alan Turing saga. Sir Derek Jacobi too of course had one of his biggest stage successes playing Turing in the play BREAKING THE CODE (they missed a trick not including him somewhere here), its a story that will continue to fascinate us.