The Imitation Game: Thoughts and Impressions

*For this post, I am beginning with my personal thoughts in relation to movie watching in general. Please scroll down to read the actual review, if you would like to skip this part. 🙂*

So, I don’t actually watch movies. Not much, I mean. Throughout my teenage years I have never bothered watching pretty much anything else except the ones that my friends have asked me out to, and those were mostly the more mind-numbing, action-filled movies where images flash over the screen and remain in my mind as long as the scene lasted. Aside from the occasional guilty pleasure like teenage girl movies and the remakes of Victorian era romance, I have pretty much watched … nothing at all.

I personally preferred drama, simply because it stretches over a longer period of time and enables you to better learn about the characters and get emotionally involved. Even if they were also guilty pleasure of sorts; like idol dramas. And these were often in Chinese and the occasional American drama series geared towards teenagers.

So you could imagine that it has really been a while since I have watched an emotionally impactful movie. Even Interstellar, which I admit has a really good plot which was well developed and fleshed out, didn’t really tug me on the emotional heartstrings. Sure, there were scenes that made me very emotional, and they really did succeed at it, but as a personal preference, it didn’t remain long on my mind enough for me to call it ‘powerful’ or ’emotional’, or ‘awesome’.

So it was really a surprise when a movie named the Imitation Game came along and made me question all my past stereotypes and generalisations about American-made movies for the big screens. As we all know, this has been known as a ‘pretty good’ movie but not spectacular enough for people to keep talking about it. I thought I would come up thinking it was ‘pretty good’. Indeed I did, but now i am thinking so much about it that I am writing it out now, despite me having a lesson at 12 pm tomorrow and having done zero of my readings.

*End of personal section. Start of review, which may contain minor spoilers. :)*

The Imitation Game is a historical thriller film following the life of Alan Turing, a British cryptanalyst and mathematician who had helped to solve the Enigma code during the Second World War and helped Britain to win the war. Though the historical events were largely accurate, personal characteristics of certain characters, the way they are portrayed, and certain events were entirely fictional, and were meant for theatrical and dramatic effect.

The main character, Alan Turing, is what actually made the movie stand out, for me personally. Portrayed as a socially awkward boy with no sense of humour whatsoever, his responses to what others say provide much laughter on the part of the audience. He is stubborn in what he believes in, and it is really heart breaking to see him cling on to what is important to him so desperately, despite much opposition from his superiors and society in general. Most crucially, the role that he plays in the war is a self-sacrificial one, being the one who has to make all the bad decisions and choose the lesser for two evils, while being condemned either way. The epitome of an unsung, tortured hero, his trials and tribulations in his work and the suffering that he has to go through is accentuated by the tragedy in his personal life and having to cope with being a homosexual in times where society actively enforced anti-homosexual laws.

Of course, the credit mostly goes to Benedict Cumberbatch, whose realistic acting skills really brought out this character so much that I couldn’t imagine anybody else playing him. His acting skills were really tested when he exhibited signs of autism in times of tension and desperation, and I do not exaggerate to say that it has really been a while since I have been absolutely blown away by acting skills alone. It was like i could see and understand every facial expression and just watching the colour drain from his face or his eyes change was mind blowing. Keira Knightley also did well as a female supporting actress, but Cumberbatch has really left a lasting impression on me.

The plot, however, is one of its weakest points. While the fictional elements were much appreciated in making the story more emotion-invoking, the attempts to induce contrast and exaggerate moral/ethical dilemmas were less than subtle, and could seem jarring in one’s appreciation of the plot. There were certain elements that the plot could do less of, for example the sub-plotline about the Soviet Spy. Worse still, this was never actually quite resolved. Also, there were certain expository elements that were not fully addressed. For example, the time switches in the middle of the main plot to Turing’s confession in the future of the secrets that he and his team were keeping during the war, did not actually serve much significance in the general exposition of the story.

Nevertheless, what made me think the most were the themes explored in this movie – consisting a few of my favourites. Firstly we know that being smack in the middle of a covert operation to win the war means that one has to make the right decision as any action potentially could save or destroy thousands of lives. So what do we do when we are faced with the situation of saving a few hundreds in the short term, versus saving millions in the long run by working to ultimately reduce the length that the war has to go on? Who are we to actually make that decision? By weighing the worth of human lives by sheer numbers, are we ultimately actually saying that humans are inherently worthless? Secondly, when we actually make that decision, how do we live with it? Similar to choosing between two evils, we may logically choose the lesser evil, but we are still consumed by guilt and the consequence of making that decision. In bearing the pain all by ourselves, it would be the most utilitarian and logical move to make, since nobody has to suffer except for you. This is the ultimate decision that Turing chose towards the end of the movie, which was in line with his character to choose the most rational solution, yet being eaten up by what he had done and his loneliness, together with this decision he has to make, makes me love the character even more.

Though a little on the melodramatic side that may prove to be too much for those who are more cynical, and not-so-subtle plot holes that were not filled, the Imitation Game is an experience for those who love morally complex characters and superb acting. Even if it is  not for the story, the acting is worth the time invested. Please do try it if you haven’t 🙂

Thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts, feel free to comment below 🙂

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