Box Office Democracy: The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch month rolls on here at Box Office Democracy. Last week we had his turn as an obnoxious egotistical wolf and next week we’ll have him as the voice of a megalomaniacal dragon but this week we get to see him act with his whole body in The Imitation Game. Finally we get a big screen look at the face that launched a thousand tumblrs. I don’t know if it’s overexposure or the breaking of some kind of spell but I fear I’m turning on Cumberbatch and at just the worst point in his career, certainly as far as the fine people at Marvel are concerned.

I’m sure Alan Turing was a fascinating person but I sincerely hope the people who knew and loved him would say more about his character than, “probably two parts BBC’s Sherlock and one part Sheldon Cooper” but that’s what the character is for most of this film. He’s great at playing that type, I never once wished Jim Parsons was in this film, but it’s not a new place for him as an actor and it’s disappointing for a movie that has such grand ambitions leaning on what is essentially type casting for most of the film. The scenes where he’s not playing that awkward know-it-all are primarily ones where he’s dealing with his homosexuality and how uncomfortable he is by how closeted he must be. Cumberbatch is fantastic in these scenes; he plays that nervous energy with just a light undercurrent of anger so well. I wish we had more of this work and fewer scenes of him showing up laypeople with his dizzying intellect; I’m quite bored with all that right now.

Other than my disenchantment with the lead actor the rest of the movie is really quite something. The rest of the cast is quite good. Keira Knightly does some exceptionally good work and her line about being a woman in man’s job meaning she doesn’t have the freedom of being an ass is destined for gif set immortality on the Internet. Matthew Goode pops off the screen in the limited time he has, his exceptional work is the takeaway for me and I hope this gives him more attention and leads to more and better work for him. Charles Dance continues his tour of being every unpleasant person with a British accent in all of media. Allen Leech is apparently not Sean Astin and you cannot convince me that he isn’t part of some Hollywood plot to clone Astin to make sure there’s always a broad shouldered redhead around, they look exactly the same it’s uncanny.

There’s a good script here but I can’t help but feel like some kind of Academy Award consultant came in and mucked it up. I’m quite sick of movies about World War II but I’m still a sucker for the emotions it can conjure up. I always fall for the stories of sacrifice, of working together, I can even get jazzed about military logistics if you give me a chance. The Imitation Game has all of that and some rather compelling characters. It works just fine at the base story but then there’s a couple things grafted on to it that feel forced and wrong.

There’s a frame story around the wartime story about police slowly realizing they can charge Turing with gross obscenity for homosexual acts and it culminates with Turing introducing the idea of the Turing test to the investigating detective and asking him after hearing his whole story if he believes Turing to be a real person. I’m quite sure nothing like that ever happened but with the Turing test being the most enduring part of his work there seemed to be this need to shoehorn it in to the movie and it takes what should be a top scene and makes it feel overwhelmingly fake. T

here’s also end cards where they praise Turing for his work and mention that generations of scientists would continue work on Turing machines and then on a separate card they say “now we call them computers” and, yeah movie, I got that they were making a computer. It also felt like a movie trying to make itself more important by underscoring how important the subject is. I know it’s Weinstein and I understand at this time of year they’re only swinging for Oscars but it needs to feel slightly less contrived.