Tag Archives: Alan Turing

The Imitation Game

tumblr_static_tumblr_static_9yxhgb0px7kgc8cc40ogcowkg_1280Benedict Cumberbatch plays an eccentric, lonely, possibly autistic genius who uses his gifts to help people who he looks down upon, save only for a companion who serves as his foil and link to the outside world.  Remarkably though, it’s not Sherlock, but a real-life hero, whose contribution to the Allies winning World War II and his subsequent life are a rich enough vein of drama without the need for embellishment.

As I’m sure you all know, Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician who succeeds in academia but is severely lacking in social skills.  His Manchester dwelling has been ransacked, and he’s sitting in a police station talking to an officer (Rory Kinnear) who is wondering why nothing was taken during the burglary.  Turing starts to talk – he was recruited by Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) to help break Enigma, the machine which encoded all German messages sent over the air during the second World War.  It’s seemingly unbreakable, Turing says during their first meeting.  “Let me try, and we’ll know for sure”, he proffers.  The film jumps back and forth between wartime and 1952, as the police gradually become more interested in this eccentric figure, and the secrets he holds.

Although there is obviously a heavy focus on the actual codebreaking, it’s done in such a way that even the most techno-illiterate will be able to keep up.  Even more impressively, it is always rooted in what’s at stake – the human cost of the Bletchley Park team’s failure to crack Enigma is constantly driven home, even to the seemingly unfeeling Turing, who develops a human side once a recruitment drive sees Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) arrive.  She is of a similar intellect, but with added social skills, and she helps him falteringly take his first steps into becoming part of a team that she is excluded from by default because of her gender.  Even though he has made progress, Turing is excluded from society as a whole; he was later, of course, one of the most famous gay men to be prosecuted for gross indecency at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in the UK.  This secret threatens his livelihood, and Cumberbatch plays the part well as a man living inside a disguise which is barely passable.

The supporting cast is also excellent – Charles Dance is a suitably venerable war commander, while Mark Strong shows a rare lightness of touch as MI6 contact Stewart Menzies.  The Bletchley Park team are excellent – the scene where they crack Enigma, only to realise they can’t do anything with the information they now possess, is engrossing and well-acted.

This is a funny, sad, smart, gripping film which will leave you thinking well after you exit the cinema, if only about how far back we as a civilisation were set back by our own prejudices and ignorance.  In a season full of stand-out films so far, The Imitation Game definitely deserves to be in the mix come awards time.

BFI London Film Festival 2014 Preview

It’s that time of year again – the bathroom light has to go on in the morning, loads of good American TV shows start again, and Christmas tat is starting to appear in the shops. Yes, autumn is on the way, and with it comes the 58th London Film Festival.

by Carole Petts (@DeathByJigsaws)

lff14My initial reaction to this year’s line-up – once I had grumbled about the member’s launch being a day later than the press launch, rendering it invalid for the most part – was how many big names are missing. No room for The Theory of Everything, St Vincent (the film, not the singer), or The Equalizer; all making their Toronto debuts this week. But scratching beneath the surface yields some treasure.

First up, let’s deal with the obvious contenders. I am looking forward to Foxcatcher very much – directed by Bennett Miller of Capote and Moneyball, the film stars Steve Carrell in a rare serious role alongside Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. Loosely based on a true story, the film follows the struggle between two wrestling champion brothers (Tatum and Ruffalo) which takes a sinister turn with the arrival of a mysterious benefactor (Carrell). Foxcatcher received stellar notices when it premiered in Cannes earlier this year and has also been prominently mentioned in early Oscar buzz. Other big hitters include The Imitation Game, the long-awaited Alan Turing biopic which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the tortured mathematical genius, and Fury, a World War 2 film from David Ayer (End of Watch) starring Brad Pitt. These open and close the festival respectively, and will be shown at cinemas across the country in tandem with their gala screenings. Mr Turner features an already award-winning performance by Timothy Spall as the titular JMW Turner, and LFF also hosts the directorial debut of Jon Stewart – Rosewater is the story of an Iranian journalist covering the country’s political unrest in 2009 who gets on the wrong side of the establishment.

Gala screenings I am looking forward to include The Salvation, a Danish western (!) starring Mads Mikkelsen and, bizarrely, Eric Cantona; Whiplash, a story about the relationship between a musical prodigy and his virtuoso teacher which is audaciously structured like a thriller; and The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom, a wuxia starring Fan Bingbing as a witch fighting to free people from tyranny during the end of the Ming Dynasty.

the immitation game

In the official competition, the film that stands out is Dearest – the story of a couple whose lives are turned upside down when their son goes missing. One of the most eagerly anticipated films in the first feature competition is ’71, set in the streets of Belfast during the titular year and starring Jack O’Connell (Starred Up) as a wet behind the ears squaddie dispatched to keep the peace.

The documentary strand has yielded some interesting prospects. There are familiar subjects in Hockey: A Life in Pictures, National Gallery, and The Possibilities Are Endless (the story of Edwyn Collins after his stroke), and a step into the unknown with In The Basement – a film about what Austrians do – yes! – in their basements. The love strand has one particular film of interest to me – Love is Strange, starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a couple forced to leave their apartment separately. This film has gathered some notoriety in the States for being rated R for no apparent reason, apart from its central relationship being a homosexual one.night bus

1001 Grams is an intriguing-looking slice of dark humour, and Night Bus explores the sometimes intimate, sometimes scary, but always intriguing world of the London night bus (shout out to route N1). A Hard Day is described as a neo-noir slice of Korean cinema, following a policeman who is having a really bad day. The follow-up to Monsters, Monsters: Dark Continent, had more creatures in the trailer than in the whole of the previous film put together, so that bodes well. There are also restored classic films scattered throughout the programme, from Orwell’s Animal Farm to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Guys and Dolls. And of course, the legendary shorts programmes are back, spanning all strands and giving you plenty of bang for your buck.

So although at first glance the line-up looks a bit light, a proper dissection of the schedule reveals that there is something for everyone here. The beauty of LFF has always lain in taking a chance and seeing something you would never normally buy a ticket for. I think this year will see a return to that essence for many people.

We will of course be bringing you reviews and diary entries during the festival itself, so don’t forget to check back between 8-19 October 2014 for more articles! You can find a full line up of what’s showing at the LFF 2014 on the BFI website.