Still Alice

For more than 20 years, Julianne Moore has proven herself to be one of Hollywood’s finest actresses. It is no surprise that the versatile and supremely talented Moore has been snapped up by directors the calibre of Robert Altman (Short Cuts, Cookie’s Fortune), Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights), Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven), Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and David Cronenberg (Maps to the Stars). Equally at home in drama, comedy or blockbuster action franchises such as The Hunger Games series, the fact that Moore is yet to be recognised with an Academy Award (despite five nominations) is more a reflection on the vagaries of the process and the politics of the industry rather than her worthiness of such an honour. With her latest performance as a linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice, Moore may finally find herself in possession of that gold statuette. As Alice Howland, Moore delivers an indelible portrayal of an intelligent, self-assured 51-year-old woman whose rapid decline from this most debilitating of diseases is heartbreaking to watch.

Still Alice

Having overcome the tragedies of her youth – an alcoholic father, the death of her mother and sister in a car accident – Alice has forged a path to success. A mother of three and an academic of high regard at Columbia University, a series of memory lapses – the type that most of us would probably dismiss as insignificant but cause much more concern for somebody whose entire identity and self-worth are defined by her intellect – sees Alice consult with a neurologist. The news is all bad and Alice is diagnosed with this most virulent strain of the disease that progresses more swiftly than usual. Adding to Alice’s torment is the fact that the disease is genetic and there is a significant chance she has passed it on to her children. As we track Alice’s rapid deterioration, Moore shines as a woman who, whilst appearing remarkably stoic on the surface, is terrified at the prospect of what the future holds; a fear that is expressed by Moore through her facial expressions as much as anything she says. You can see her frustration when words fail to materialise and sense her growing confusion as she becomes increasingly detached from the world around her. Moore never resorts to histrionics in her portrayal, conveying Alice’s mental imprisonment with economy and grace. As the reality of her situation becomes a battle between the intellectual and the emotional, Alice sets out to prepare her future self for a way out when the time comes.

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This is the type of the movie that could very easily slip into movie-of-the-week melodrama if not for the strength of the performances from Moore and Kristen Stewart as youngest daughter Lydia, the only one of her children willing to put their own life on hold to assist as Alice’s condition deteriorates rapidly. Stewart once again proves that, with the right material, she is an actress of considerable capacity and she is good as the family outcast who puts her own aspirations as an actor on hold. It could be argued that Stewart’s character trivialises acting as a career choice – she is broke and neither her mother nor her siblings take her seriously – and this is true to a certain extent, but Lydia emerges as the most rounded supporting character in Alice’s crumbling world. Alec Baldwin plays Alice’s medical researcher husband who, despite an enduring love for his wife that never waivers, doesn’t know how to balance the demands of her illness with his own ambitions, while Kate Bosworth is Anna, the vile, self-absorbed older daughter who shows little regard for anybody but herself.

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There is nothing flashy in the direction from Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, which is in keeping with the mood of the piece. Anything too ostentatious would only serve to trivialise the plight of the characters. In fact, the film isn’t particularly cinematic at all and there is certainly nothing here for those who like their films fast paced and full of action. However, for those who like their movies to provide some kind of insight into the human experience, Still Alice should certainly fit the bill. Make no mistake; this is a sad story that is difficult to watch at times due to Moore’s remarkably affective performance that is deserving of whatever accolades come her way.

Iconic Costumes on Display in Brisbane

The Costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane offers a rare opportunity to see some of the most iconic costumes that featured in Hollywood productions from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. The exhibition features costumes worn by some of the most famous and celebrated performers of the era, including the likes of Marlon Brando, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and many more.

Golden Age

I am not one typically enamoured with films from this period in Hollywood history, but I found myself thoroughly engaged, in both the costumes and the stories behind them. It is particularly interesting to see, and appreciate, costumes in living colour that have only be seen on screen in black and white.

Remarkably, the entire exhibition is drawn from the private collection of Brisbane resident Nicholas Inglis, who has spent almost 20 years acquiring costumes, props and memorabilia from films produced during this very prolific period in Hollywood’s history.

The exhibition runs until May 24 at the Museum of Brisbane at City Hall and entry is absolutely free.

Please Note: The Museum of Brisbane is temporarily closed from January 27 until February 2.

American Sniper

by Branden Wittchen

Somewhat appropriately, considering the reasons for the conflict, this is one of the dumbest movies about the Iraq War. American Sniper (directed by Clint Eastwood) is a movie that asks the audience to care more about the suffering of an American soldier that has to kill a child, than the death of that child. It is a movie that asks the audience not to care why the U.S. military is in Iraq or whether or not they should be. It is a movie that reduces the people of Iraq to two simplistic stereotypes “savage terrorists” and “victims”. It is a movie that asks the audience to evaluate its war heroes, not by the amount of lives they’ve saved but by the amount of lives they’ve taken. It is a movie that confuses the horrible acts that happened on the 11th of September 2001 with the war in Iraq. It is a movie so in love with its hero that it dare not show any sort of character flaws in him, thus creating a completely unbelievable character. It is a movie that completely misrepresents PTSD. It is a movie that asks the audience to cheer at the death of another man. It is also a love story to firearms that doesn’t even have the guts to deal with consequences borne from the “freedom to bear arms.” Worst of all, it is jingoistic pro-war propaganda. At times American Sniper resembles a non-satirical version of Team America. At other times it resembles the masturbatory fantasies of a violently aggressive 12 year old Call of Duty fan.

American Sniper poster

In American Sniper, Bradley Cooper plays a character somewhat based on Chris Kyle who is a (you guessed it) American sniper, who fought in Iraq. The real Chris Kyle rose to fame after writing an autobiography (with the help of Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice) about himself and his American record of 160 confirmed kills of, in his own words, “savages”. He also reached a certain level of infamy after telling some tall tales about murdering two men at a petrol station who attempted to car jack him in Texas, and about him and a buddy killing people they called bad guys in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He was even successfully sued for a defamatory story in which he claimed to have punched a Minnesota governor for saying something “un-American”.

There is no doubt that the real Chris Kyle deserves recognition for his service. He did, after all, survive three gunshot wounds, two helicopter crashes, six IED attacks, and numerous surgeries. However Clint Eastwood’s movie about Chris Kyle doesn’t mention any of this, perhaps in fear that it may take away from the indestructible action-hero representation of him. The movie also doesn’t deal with the circumstances of his death by firearm at a Texas gun range. Instead, the movie uses his death at the ending of the movie to manipulate the audience’s emotions and incite some patriotic flag waving. Sadly, I must admit the movie did succeed in its ending, as in the three-quarter full cinema in which I watched the movie, the entire audience left in respectful silence after the credits finished. However, the movie would have been much more interesting if it had dealt with the real Chris Kyle; a man who constantly boasted about his 160 confirmed kills (something about which the US Army does not officially or unofficially keep track, and is in fact something they shy away from reporting); a man who was a racist, who struggled with telling the truth, possibly as a result of PTSD; a man who was injured at war but kept going back; a man who was killed by something he loved so much – a firearm – by someone he was trying to help overcome PTSD. A movie that looked at the country and culture that created this type of person and actually analysed and reflected on who he really was would have been much more interesting. Instead we are given this false representation of him as a modest action hero who loves the US of A, in some attempt to create a patriotic feeling of adoration for this man.

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In the opening scene of American Sniper we are shown Chris Kyle’s first two kills. A woman and a child who attempt to attack US soldiers with a grenade. He is later shown to be upset by the experience and, in a later scene in the movie, he is shown struggling with the fact that he may have to shoot another child who has picked up an RPG dropped by one of the many men that Kyle kills throughout the film. Kyle is staring down the scope of his rifle with the crosshairs aimed on the young child struggling to lift the heavy weapon. He begins to beg for the child not to pick it up as he knows he will then have to shoot and kill him. What I don’t understand is why can’t he shoot a warning shot near the child to scare him off instead of killing him? The worst part of these scenes however is that no importance is given to the life of the Iraqi children, the movie instead weighs on the emotional anguish that its hero has to suffer. Even worse, the movie seems to suggest that the women and children that are killed at the hands of Chris Kyle deserved it for serving terrorist regimes. I find this ridiculous as it is highly likely the women and children (and many of the men too) are forced or manipulated into such actions.

In what is meant to be the climax of the movie, Kyle faces off against an enemy sniper known as Mustafa, who serves as the arch enemy of our hero and the antagonist of the film. Mustafa is not given any dialogue throughout the entire movie, but is instead given the character traits of having dark skin, wearing black villainous-looking clothing, and often shown lurking amongst the shadows or spinning a bullet ominously. Not much story is given on Mustafa, except that he is an Olympic sniper using his talents to kill American soldiers. We are told just enough to know that he is the bad guy. During what is meant to be the scene stealing part of the movie, we are given a first person view of the bullet fired by Chris Kyle that kills Mustafa from a considerable distance. This scene was met with cheers, applause, and cries of “awesome” by the crowd with whom I watched this movie. I found this disgusting and highly insensitive, cheering at the death of another man in a story that is meant be based on real people, especially when, in an earlier scene it was suggested that Mustafa is a father. I also found this first-person-bullet scene oddly similar to something you would see in a Call of Duty videogame. This is particularly odd considering Eastwood is more likely to be heard – in his Dirty Harry voice – uttering something along the lines of “those damn kids and their video games”, than to be playing a first person shooter.

Defendants of the movie’s racism and Kyle’s racist use of the word “savages” have responded with questions such as “what would you call people that commit terrorist acts and torture children?” I ask these people to re-watch the movie, paying careful attention to the scene in a Hummer where one soldier is discussing an engagement ring he bought off an Iraqi civilian. In this scene, Bradley Cooper’s character refers to the person from whom the soldier bought the ring as a savage. When Chris Kyle speaks of savages, he is not specifically referring to terrorists but to all Iraqi people. Is the real Chris Kyle really someone that should be glorified? Is this fictionalised Chris Kyle someone who should be glorified?

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American Sniper has been compared to The Hurt Locker but such comparisons are misguided. This isn’t half the movie that The Hurt Locker is. The few minutes in The Hurt Locker of William James (Jeremy Renner) struggling with life back on home soil holds more water than the entire second half of American Sniper, which is focused on Kyle’s “PTSD”, which is presented as nothing more than him feeling bad for not still being over there where he could be protecting his brothers by killing more “savages”.

The inclusion of this propaganda in the Academy Award Best Picture and Writing (Adapted Screenplay) nominees is an insult to the other movies that have been nominated. Yes, the movie is well acted, filmed, edited, written, and produced. However, it is one of the biggest budgeted propaganda films ever made – and Eastwood’s abilities to manipulate the audience’s emotions are unquestionable – but a movie shouldn’t be praised for its craft when its message is so horrible. There are some really good movies about the War in Iraq which ignore politics and focus on personal stories (The Hurt Locker and The Messenger being two of the best), but American Sniper is not one of them.

Wild

So good in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, Reese Witherspoon has thus far failed to deliver another performance of such quality. Her smallish role in the excellent Mud notwithstanding, Witherspoon has hardly been seen on screen of late, certainly not in anything of substance. In what is perhaps her most provocative performance in many ways since Freeway, Witherspoon takes on the lead role of Cheryl Strayed, a woman who embarks on a 2500-mile journey on foot in an effort to purge herself of the demons – both chemical and emotional – that have sent her spiralling towards self-destruction. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club, Café de Flore), Wild shares visual, narrative and thematic qualities with the likes of Into the Wild, The Way, or even Australia’s Tracks and Strayed is, to some extent, an amalgam of the lead characters from each of these films.

Wild poster

Based on real events, Wild is a story of determination borne from loss. When the death of her mother (a typically strong turn from Laura Dern) leaves her emotionally destroyed, Strayed seeks solace through drugs and sexual promiscuity, with no regard for her own welfare or those around her, including husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski). Eventually, when she has seemingly lost everything, Strayed sets out to trek the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. The problem for me is that the extent of her self-destruction is hard to understand and ultimately that makes it difficult to care enough about whether or not she completes her attempt to walk from one end of America to the other. Yes, the death of her mother was premature and unexpected, but that hardly seems justification for the craziness that follows. No doubt in a bid to placate multiplex audiences who demand that everything be explained to them simplistically, a lot of time is spent in flashback tracking Strayed’s life from her time at college as a conscientious student to the wild days following her mother’s death. It all just seems a little contrived; the nude scenes and drug binges seem more about Witherspoon reaffirming her position in the Hollywood pecking order, perhaps in reaction to the countless young actresses making their mark on screen today.

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The best moments are those spent on the trail as Strayed – who was remarkably naïve about the task she had set for herself – battles the elements and her own lack of preparedness; her backpack is too heavy, her shoes are the wrong size and she has no means with which to cook. As a woman undertaking the journey alone, she finds herself susceptible to all kinds of potential harm, much of it in human form. There are moments of genuine tension in some of the encounters with others on the trail. If the film spent more time with Cheryl on the trail and less with the back story of how she came to be there, it would be an even better film. There is no middle ground offered here, as if to say that such an extreme undertaking is the only possible way to rid yourself of the vices that have gripped your life. Does her reason for undertaking this journey make it any more meritorious and worthy of our admiration? Not really. It is the journey itself that offers so much scope for both narrative and character development and it is when we are on the trail with Cheryl that the film soars. It is in the moments of solitude in which Cheryl is battling the elements that we see Witherspoon at her best.

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There is nothing particularly bad about this film and it is certainly never boring but, given the talent involved (Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay, which was based on Strayed’s 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail), I was expecting something pretty special. Vallee’s direction is necessarily composed, particularly during those moments when Cheryl is struggling alone in the middle of nowhere, and Hornby’s screenplay creates moments of tension through ambiguity. Yes, we see Cheryl removing a mangled toenail and suffering various other scratches and bruises, but ultimately she emerges from this arduous escapade looking pretty fresh and I can’t help but think that it might be this lack of authenticity that has prevented the film from being the awards season champion that is was so obviously intended to be. Having said all that, Wild is a quality film, Witherspoon’s performance is great and the journey itself is certainly an epic undertaking.

Unbroken

by – Branden Wittchen

Unbroken, the biopic directed by Angelina Jolie, tells the story of Louis Zamperini (played by Jack O’Connell), an Olympic athlete turned WWII bombardier who survived at sea and internment in Japanese POW camps. The film opens with a visceral aerial dog fight scene that is the most exciting scene of the movie, and one of the most exciting aerial combat scenes ever. The camera stays almost entirely inside the cramped and fragile airplane during the sequence. With the majority of the cameras focussed on O’Connell, the audience is placed in his shoes, feeling the excitement, the danger and the fear that Zamperini would have felt while navigating his way through a bomber plane being torn apart by enemy gun fire. To the credit of cinematographer Roger Deakins (best known for his work with the Coen Brothers), despite the ugliness of combat, a visually stunning and heart pounding scene is filmed with the choreography of the combat still comprehensible.

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Through a series of flashbacks we are told Zamperini’s back story; a troubled rebellious youth overcome by finding his place on the track field. He goes on to break high school long distance running records and is sent to the 1936 Berlin Olympics to compete, where he breaks more records. Although the flashback scenes are beautifully filmed and performed, they are very predictable.

When we return to the present of WWII, Zamperini must break from his running training to set off on another bombing mission. With the men that survived the last mission – pilots Phil and Cup (Domnhall Gleesson and Australia’s own Jai Courtney) and gunner Mac (Finn Wittrock) – and some new crew members, they are sent off in a barely functional plane. They crash into the Pacific Ocean and the only survivors are Louis, Phil and Mac. Thus begins the most interesting part of the movie, which is unfortunately filled with flaws. Louis and Phil survive an astonishing 47 days at sea, with Mac sadly perishing on the 27th day. Their at sea survival is filled with the usual plot points: dehydration, survival, rationing issues, fishing, shark attacks, boredom and a loss of hope. There are even missed opportunities of being spotted by aircraft flying overhead, which made me question if anyone lost at sea in a Hollywood movie has ever been spotted and rescued by a passing plane. In the most predictable scene in the whole movie there is a shark attack framed almost exactly as a famous shot from Jaws. Filmed in the waters near Moreton Bay, these scenes give Roger Deakins’ cinematography room to shine. Unfortunately, his great camera work is somewhat overshadowed by typical scenes that we’ve seen in much better films such as All is Lost or Life of Pi.

Unbroken

On the 47th day Louis and Phil are rescued by the Japanese and taken as prisoners of war. It is during these scenes that Unbroken sadly breaks down. There are some issues with the way the Japanese are represented and the movie becomes rather repetitive. There is one silver lining to the third act of the film, the performance by Japanese pop star Miyavi as Mitsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe. Miyavi inflects this character with real pathos in a role that, in the wrong hands, could have been a one-dimensional villain. In one scene, we see him break down after beating Zamperini, a moment reminiscent of the representation of the mental and physical stress endured by both the torturers and the tortured in Zero Dark Thirty.

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The film ends with a patriotic tribute to Zamperini as he returns to America to kiss the soil he loves, having survived the war. The screen transitions to photos of the real-life characters and the usual where-are-they-now blurbs so often featured at the end of biopics. I was delightfully surprised when an extra scene appeared prior to the credits featuring real footage of Zamperini. He returned to Japan to show forgiveness by running the Olympic flame at the Nagano Winter Olympics at the impressive age of 80. This final addition at the end of the film added a sentiment of forgiveness that was not seen anywhere else in the film. It did however also make me question the pomposity of America in forgiving the Japanese when making amends is a two-way street, especially when both sides committed horrible acts.

I really wanted this film to be a shining moment for Jack O’Conell, having been very impressed by his performance in the prison drama Starred Up. He does a good job but cannot compete with the virtuosity of Roger Deakins’ cinematography and the scene-stealing performance by Miyavi in his first English speaking role. I also expected more from a script that was rewritten by Joel and Ethan Coen and based on Lauren Hillbrand’s bestselling book. Overall it’s a well executed and acted, poetically filmed movie that is predictable with questionable directing choices. It’s a good movie but, considering Zamperini’s amazing story, it wasn’t the great movie it could have been.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Making ‘Best Movie of the Year’ declarations in January is fraught with all kinds of potential embarrassment and credibility questions, but I am certain that only something pretty darn remarkable could possibly upstage Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) for the right to be declared as such for 2015. This is about as good as movies get, with all the ingredients blended together perfectly by Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu to construct a wonderfully acerbic examination of fame that is philosophical, funny and utterly compelling from beginning to end. From the performances, to the editing (or lack thereof), to the percussive soundtrack; everything works to render Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as a masterfully conceived and executed example of cinematic art.

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In a wonderful performance that, given how long it has been since he has been afforded such an opportunity, lends considerable weight to the oft-touted notion that there are more great actors than there are great roles, Michael Keaton is terrific as Riggan Thomson, a Hollywood actor desperate to break free from the shackles of a film franchise that has made him a household name. Wanting to move beyond the Birdman character that made his famous, Thomson has decided to write, direct and star in a Broadway play based on the Raymond Carver short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. The film is set in the days leading up to opening night; rehearsals and preview performances and, as such, almost the entire film is set within the claustrophobic labyrinthine corridors, rooms and backstage passages of the St. James Theatre. Of course, art imitating life is very much at play here given the fact that Keaton’s biggest film success until now was his role in Batman, way back in 1992.

Thomson, who may or may not have telekinetic powers, encounters one setback after another, including one of his actors being injured by an errant lighting rig, his girlfriend telling him she is pregnant and a co-star with an ego the size of Texas. Inarritu skewers various elements of arts and celebrity culture, from the press conference at which the various reporters only have interest in Thomson’s Birdman character to the theatre critic who vows to destroy the production via a scathing review even before she has seen it, simply because of Thomson’s background as a Hollywood ‘big shot’. With the ghost of movies past haunting him, a daughter (Emma Stone) fresh out of rehab who serves as a constant reminder of his failings as a father and a running battle with an acclaimed stage actor (Edward Norton) who undermines him at every opportunity, Thomson is on the brink of a meltdown and it is left to his manager Jake (Zach Galifinakis) to keep the show on track. Whilst it might seem a somewhat highfalutin concept, it works remarkably well and there are laughs aplenty.

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Having already been responsible for great films such as 21 Grams and Babel, this is Inarritu’s best work to date. Filmed on location, the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (who also shot Gravity) creates a fabulously authentic feel to the spaces in which our various characters inhabit. All the performances are wonderful, with Keaton, Norton and Stone getting strong support from Galifinakis, Andrea Riseborough and Australia’s Naomi Watts, in a welcome return to form after her misguided moll in St. Vincent. Edited seamlessly to suggest one uninterrupted take, the flowing camera movement is fluid and is perfectly executed, following our characters through their various interactions and presenting the theatre almost as a giant maze.

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Whilst Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is an intelligent film and tackles some big issues (such as the search for authentic expression in a world in which spectacle is the key currency), it is never at the expense of entertainment, with both Keaton and Norton seemingly taking great delight in referencing their own reputations in their characters. Whilst the screenplay is full of dense monologues that gives each of the performers a moment (or two) to shine, this is very much Keaton’s film and he is superb as a character who, despite numerous flaws and failings, is very easy to like. Unlike anything else we have seen lately, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is philosophical, funny and absolutely fucking fantastic.

The Imitation Game

Whilst films set during WW2 generally focus on the horrors inflicted by the Nazi regime across Europe or the stories of triumph and heroism that emerged amidst such subjugation, it is always interesting to take a look at the other side of the conflict and acknowledge that the actions of the allies certainly wasn’t always above reproach, even when it came to the way they treated their own. As such, The Imitation Game explores the work of Alan Turing, his profound influence on the outcome of the war and the appalling way in which he was subsequently treated by the British military and intelligence agencies who benefitted so much from his efforts. Although most certainly not a soldier, Turing was responsible for the development of technology that ultimately enabled the Allies to seize control of the conflict and bring the war to an end. The reward for his efforts? Being kicked to the kerb by the authorities and ultimately dying prematurely without any formal recognition for his work.

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Turing is a maths genius recruited by the military and secret service to decrypt the Enigma code used by the Nazis to transmit communications. The unravelling of this code was absolutely critical in being able to halt the Nazi insurgences throughout Europe and was regarded as unbreakable. Of course Turing – played by Benedict Cumberbatch – has a personality that is not particularly compatible with the military hierarchy in that he has little regard for anybody who does not, or simply cannot, understand what he is trying to achieve. Rank, protocol and precedence are of little interest to him. Initially presenting as an insular, tactless and seemingly arrogant individual, Turing infuriates most of those with whom he works, including Commander Dennison (Charles Dance) the commanding officer of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, the facility where the work was carried out. However, it is to the great credit of Cumberbatch that Turing ultimately emerges as a very likeable, sympathetic character. In fact, the casting is perfect and it is hard to imagine anybody else playing Turing.

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The film opens with Turing’s arrest in the 1950’s and alternates between three eras; the events immediately before and after the arrest, his unhappy boarding school days and, of course, the wartime triumph that is by far the most interesting of the three narrative threads. Immediately upon arriving at Bletchley Park, Turing antagonises everybody he meets, including his notional superior Hugh Alexander (Mathew Goode), and immediately isolates himself from those he considers intellectually inferior. In fact, he sets out to recruit a new team, which leads to the development of a deep friendship with Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) that results in the two becoming engaged; a strategic alliance rather than one based on love given the fact that Turing was unambiguously gay. This friendship is beautifully articulated by the two performers, with Knightley again showing what she can do when given a good role.

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The story of the Enigma codebreaking is fascinating and surprisingly suspenseful. A common theme throughout the film is the necessity of sacrifice in the interests of success. Whether it be soldiers and civilians being killed in attacks that could have been prevented simply to ensure that the Nazi party remains unaware the Allies have successfully decrypted Enigma, or whether it be the personal sacrifices made by those engaged in this top secret project. Of course, Turing paid the ultimate price for his notoriety. Convicted of “gross indecency” in 1952 simply because he was homosexual, Turing was forced to undergo chemical castration in lieu of a prison sentence and his death in 1954 was ruled a suicide.

The battle scenes are not particularly convincing and it seems unlikely that MI6 head Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong), would really have spent so much time lolling about Bletchley Park doing very little of any consequence. Furthermore, the Soviet spy sub-plot is a little clichéd and doesn’t really add much to what is already an engaging enough story about a fascinating character. However, Cumberbatch’s perfectly pitched performance lifts The Imitation Game above its flaws, with Knightley very solid in support. Yes, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a formal apology in1989 for the way in which Turing was treated and the Queen granted him a posthumous pardon in 2013, but it really was too little too late for a man whose efforts brought an early end to a war that may have otherwise continued for years to come.