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The Imitation Game

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On the surface, The Imitation Game might seem like your typical British biopic, but it’s much deeper than that. Mathematician Alan Turing was a fascinating man, and he is brought to life here brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch. There’s never a dull moment in The Imitation Game, and director Morten Tyldum keeps you on your toes as he flashes forward and back in Turing’s life. Unlike another British biopic this Oscar season, The Imitation Game is just the right amount of ambitious and involving, propelled by fantastic performances and a bolstering score.

The Imitation Game, adapted from Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, shows us the life of Turing as he was recruited to help crack the Nazi code during World War II. He helps lead a team of code-breakers at Bletchley Park and their goal is to break the Enigma, the Nazi encoding device, to intercept messages and win the war. It’s a really interesting true story, and it is estimated that Turing helped reduce the War by at least two years. We see a side of the war that we rarely see in The Imitation Game. Unlike Fury or Unbroken, two other WWII prestige pics this year, Imitation Game gives us the glimpse at the men and women behind the scenes.

Turing himself, though, had plenty of secrets. He doesn’t play well with others, leading to plenty of conflict as Turing is convinced that his computer “Christopher” will crack the code. Also, Alan was a homosexual, which at the time was illegal in Britain. The film plays subtly with this theme, never bringing it to the forefront, but keeping it in the back of our minds the entire time. In flash-forwards, we see Turing on trial for his crime, and some truly devastating scenes follow. On top of that, one of the codebreakers is a mole, and some thrilling scenes result from this. It’s a tragic tale, an important one, and Game deals with important themes throughout, as Alan himself was an ‘enigma’ of sorts. But Game is never bogged down by its heavy-dealing themes. Instead everything moves along at a smooth pace.

We also meet Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), and through her the film deals with a duality as both her and Turing are outsiders during this time. They strike up a friendship that is truly something to behold on screen, and surprisingly Knightley has actual chemistry with Cumberbatch. Speaking of, Cumberbatch gives the performance of his career in The Imitation Game. I’ve never been a big Cumberbatch fan, but I’ve never not liked him, however this movie changed my mind. He brings all of Turing’s complexities to the stage, giving us a calculated, awkward, but still likable character that we root for. Some might say Imitation Game is an underdog story, and in some aspects it definitely is, but it’s more about recognizing that Turing, like everyone else, is only human. A quote repeated three too many times in the film paints this well.

Couple this with a score from my favorite composer, Alexandre Desplat, and The Imitation Game is the whole shebang. A complex, well-told story with a tight script from screenwriter Graham Moore and a flat-out terrific performance from Benedict Cumberbatch has Oscars written all over it. But awards aside, The Imitation Game deserves to be seen because it’s an important film, one about a great man whose legacy will be remembered for ages.

 

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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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12 Years a Slave Review

Adobe Photoshop PDF12 Years a Slave is a beautiful portrait of slavery that should not be missed. Directed by Steve McQueen (Shame), 12 Years a Slave is a brutal yet honest look at one influential man’s life, and it’s one of the best films you’ll see this fall.

The movie is about a free black man named Solomon Northup, who lives with his family in New York. One day he is kidnapped and sold into slavery, jumping from plantation to plantation and working for 12 years until his release. Like any good biopic, 12 Years a Slave focuses the attention on Solomon, and really makes you feel for him. The film is based on a true story, and, given the context of his capture, it’s a harrowing look at a dark time in our nation’s history.

The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon, in what should be his breakout role. Ejiofor is fantastic as Northup. He really commands the film with a certain boldness required to play such a character. He should be one to watch out for come award season. The film is full of other outstanding performances, most notably Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps, a cruel plantation owner. He is chilling and brutal, like any villain should be, yet he holds a particular relationship with Solomon that is unlike anything you’ll see this year. McQueen really nails the relationship between master and slave. This is also evident through the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch as Solomon’s first owner. He really shines as he harbors a certain sympathy for Solomon. Other fantastic performances come from Lupita Nyong’o, as Patsy, a slave who sparks up a connection with Solomon. And great supporting roles come from Brad Pitt as a Canadian worker for hire, and Paul Dano as a plantation overseer.

The film is perfect in its depiction of an important man at an important time. The film carries a real passion to it, a humanity of sorts, that allows you to relate to almost any character on screen, thanks to the brilliant performances. This also plays into McQueen’s excellent cinematography, granting some beautiful shots. The shots are powerful, capturing the raw emotion behind the film’s personality. It’s from here that the main emotion is felt, leading into what my main criticism of the film is.

All of this outstanding acting leads up to what would be a perfect film, but 12 Years a Slave left me feeling different than I thought it would. McQueen’s direction keeps the film from ever straying into over-emotional territory, something that a film like this should. He keeps you just far away from the action to make you feel nothing less than a passive observer, rather than a participator in the film. There’s a certain disconnect he creates that keeps you from every feeling anything. Even in the more brutal scenes where he shows the darker side of slavery, he still keeps a distance from any raw emotion that the scene might conjure. Others have called the movie “powerful” and “breathtaking,” yet I never felt emotionally drained.

12 Years a Slave is a beautiful and compelling look into one man’s life, and how it was all taken away from him. Excellent performances and beautiful cinematography are what will be remembered from this outstanding film. Besides a few scenes that lack emotion, 12 Years a Slave is an impressive and harrowing tale, one that will definitely be remembered in the years to come.

Overall: 3 stars out of 4

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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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Star Trek Into Darkness Review

J.J. Abrams’s 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise holds its spot on my list of favorite reboots of all time. I was never a huge Trek fan before his film, occasionally watching the movies, but his reboot changed all that. The fresh new faces were exhilarating, and the character development was excellent. Everything worked to make it my favorite reboot of all time. Four years later, here we are with Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to 2009’s Star Trek. Does it hold up to the original, or does it fall short?

Into Darkness begins with everyone’s favorite Enterprise crew on a foreign planet, observing an indigenous population. Bad decisions are made, and Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself in hot water with Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood), and he is demoted and loses his ship. On Earth, a mysterious bombing of a Section 31 Archive in London prompts investigation, and a mysterious man known as John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) is responsible. This, and the death of one of their own, causes the Enterprise crew to come back and lead a manhunt for this villain, and ultimately bring him responsible.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a joy to watch as mysterious man John Harrison.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a joy to watch as mysterious man John Harrison.

The characters that were introduced in the original film are all here once again, and everyone is in top form. In the 2009 film, there was quite a bit of spotlight battling, as Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto) fought with their conflicting personalities, leaving the rest of the crew shortchanged. That all changes here. Although Kirk is still captain of the Enterprise and Spock is still first officer, the rest of the supporting cast all have their moments as well. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is back, and she must learn to compose her emotions while dealing with her Vulcan boyfriend. Scotty (Simon Pegg) has his own secret mission that serves a great deal in the latter half of the film. Bones (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), and even Chekov (Anton Yelchin) get a chance in the spotlight as well, and the film becomes less of a buddy-action movie and more of an ensemble film. New characters such as Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), and her father, Alexander (Peter Weller) are given smaller roles, and ultimately they lie in the rest of the cast’s shadow.

I was never a huge fan of Chris Pine. Another reviewer called him “boy-band ish” which I agree with. But he never really convinced me with his goals or convictions. In the original film, I found his lines very cheesy and eye-rolling. Those are still present in Into Darkness, but he at least knows his place as Kirk now, and he has greatly improved. Zachary Quinto shines once again as Spock, everyone’s favorite half-human half-Vulcan. As he tries to balance his emotions, he must make smart decisions to save the ones he loves. Benedict Cumberbatch is stellar as one of the most convincing, mysterious villains in recent years. The producers did an excellent job of keeping his real identity under wraps, and I was shocked when he revealed it. He plays a very destructive, yet calm man, reminiscent of The Avengers’s Loki or even Skyfall’s Silva.

Into Darkness is full of many twists and turns, and almost every 30 minutes or so, there is a new twist that you won’t see coming. This keeps you on your toes, and as an action sci-fi adventure, that’s a good thing. A huge reveal half-way through the film sets the stage for the film’s third act, which is a riveting revenge mission back at London.

Watching future London get torn apart is a visually arresting sight.

Watching future London get torn apart is a visually arresting sight.

Star Trek Into Darkness is beautiful, and I had the pleasure of viewing it in 3D, which was a sight to behold. Particle effects were everywhere, and the scenes in space were beautifully shot and well done. The soundtrack is once again scored by legend Michael Giacchino, and it features tense action rhythms as well as Star Trek’s signature theme.

So, the question remains, is Into Darkness better than 2009’s Star Trek? Ultimately, I’m not going to answer the question one way or another. The two films are perfect action science-fiction films, and even better Star Trek films. One can go into either movie not knowing a thing about Star Trek, and leaving the theater satisfied nonetheless. That’s why these two films succeed: Trekkies will love the nods to old Star Trek canon, and newbies will still fall in love with the well-written characters, excellent acting, and an unforgettable plot.

Overall: 3.5/4.0

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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