‘Imitation Game’ Demands Oscar’s Attention (Analysis)

'Imitation Game' Demands Oscar's Attention (Analysis)

“The Imitation Game” is clearly an awards contender: Complex, impeccably executed and unique. The film’s offbeat approach to an oddball character will be its greatest strength — and its challenge.

A historical drama about WWII cryptographer Alan Turing, “The Imitation Game” is a kudos candidate in multiple categories, including the superb performances of Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley (lead or supporting? She could go either way). Artisan contributions seem like shoo-in contenders. And the film, direction and screenplay are clearly in the FYC category.

The big challenge to both mainstream audiences and awards voters: selling it. Based on Andrew Hodges’ biography on Turing, the British mathematician who cracked the Nazis’ code, “Imitation Game” demands that the audience work to keep up. When awards voters have a stack of DVDs and invitations to screenings, they’ll need a lot of buzz to lure them to a film about a WWII-era computer and the relationships among the real-life English geeks who are building it. What’s more, the first hour lays out events so slowly and carefully that you’re not sure where the film is headed.

The first lines of the movie are “Are you paying attention? Good. If you’re not listening carefully, you will miss things.” That’s a warning to audiences as well, despite the second hour paying off big, with a heartbreaking finale. So it’s not an easy sell, but the Weinstein Co. team are experts at handling difficult awards material.

Comparisons are tough. At times, the WWII-era geeks of “Imitation Game” make it seem like “Big Bang Theory” as depicted on “Masterpiece Theatre.” In terms of awards precedents, it could be compared to “A Beautiful Mind,” “Atonement” (which also featured Knightley and Cumberbatch) and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” They all got awards attention, but to varying degrees.

The film ultimately celebrates anyone who is not “normal.” As director Morten Tyldum said at the Telluride Festival screening on Friday, he liked the message: namely “how important it is that someone is different.” That may turn off some voters but should appeal to most creatives. Because if there ever was a place where the atypical made an impact, it’s Hollywood.


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  1. Cece Calabrese says:

    The uncanny ability of Knightly and Cumberbatch to completely lose themselves in the characters they portray should carry them both well come Oscar time

  2. Toronto Reader says:

    Hmmm, do I detect a certain level of cultural condescension with perhaps a trace of homophobia? Turing was a hero who helped defeat the Nazis…and was then mercilessly persecuted for his homosexuality by the very nation he helped defend. Pretty heady stuff…and a story worth telling.

  3. bubbles says:

    It seems to me that the media buzz like this plays a significant part in the Oscar process so I was curious that his came out on top of your review which was not quite so favourable,”Even then, “The Imitation Game” never quite trumps the sense that Turing’s life was a messier, more complex enterprise than we’re allowed to see here.” I think I would rather see the grittier version than the cleaned up Oscar orientated version.
    I have not seen it yet to see id it does compare to the films above but I have seen reviews that have compared his performance to a more vulnerable Sherlock and stating he has cornered the role in brilliant yet socially awkward genius. I do wonder how many more of this type of role we see before we get something different.Granted his roles in Atonement and Tinker Tailor had less of the awkwardness if still underpinned by reserve and intelligence but in the end Tinker was the only one where I saw a marked difference in his overall composure.. Heaven forbid that Sherlock seeps into Hamlet!!

    • ADAGUN says:

      You obviously have not seen many of his work. And it’s quite amusing to always follow his news and try to make him just Sherlock, while his body of work clearly shows otherwise. I bet next year, you’ll say his Hamlet is just Sherlock even if you don’t even have the ticket to see it and no critic even indicates that. Let me guess? A fan of other actors feeling threatened by the very talented Mr. Cumberbatch? ;-)

  4. Cath says:

    I’d like to see it. Considering the type of movie it is I am fairly sure that it will not open in my town which is a shame. We miss a lot of movies that way and have to either buy or now rent online (our rental store went out of business) which means without a long commute we have to wait.

  5. PETER says:

    I’m looking forward to IMITATION GAME. ATONEMENT and TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY were wonderful!

  6. maz@gmail.com says:

    it’s got harvey

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