Posts Tagged ‘The Theory of Everything’

The Imitation Game: Film-making at its Best—Movie

December 19, 2014

The Imitation Game” is a brilliant film about how the man who broke secrets harbored a secret which eventually broke him. Directed by Morten Tyldum with screenplay by Graham Moore, based on the biography, Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, “The Imitation Game” is the true story of Alan Turing, who, by breaking the Nazi code, helped bring an end to World War II. Beginning in 1939, Turing and his team worked at England’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. Because their work was done in secret, the world did not learn of what Turing and his colleagues did to change the course of the war in favor of the Allies until many years later.

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“The Imitation Game” begins in 1951 with the arrest of Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch). During the course of his interrogation, he decides to break his silence, telling his story to the arresting detective, Detective Nock (Rory Kinnear),   and warns him that what he’s being told can never be repeated. We then go back and forth in time, beginning with his Turing’s recruitment into the Enigma Program—learning about the work the group accomplished and the relationships that developed within the group and end with Turing’s arrest and the years that followed.

Turing doesn’t suffer fools easily and has an abrasive personality, to put it mildly. He’s not one for diplomacy, speaking the truth as he sees it. Although his superiors, Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong) and Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) don’t love his attitude, they do appreciate his smarts.

Through the magnificent acting of Alex Lawther as the young Alan, we see the bullying Turing received as a young student. His boyhood friendship with student Christopher (Jack Bannon) affected him deeply and the manner in which Turing honors him later is a stroke of genius.  As an adult, Turing earns the respect of his colleagues, but not necessarily their friendship. Turing helps recruit the lone woman, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), into Enigma and the two develop a warm relationship, which, for a time, proves beneficial to both.

“The Imitation Game” is full of wonderful performances, but as Alan Turing, Benedict Cumberbatch is absolutely fantastic. He has the most expressive face which he uses to full advantage in this role. He simply nails all the inner conflicts his character goes through. When the final credits roll, you feel as if you have met the real Turing and walked in his shoes. It’s because of Cumberbatch’s performance that the movie has such a dark, sad feel to it.  The film’s supporting cast never lets the main character or the film down. It’s hard to think of someone better in the Joan Clarke role than Keira Knightley. She has a look that fits easily into the style of the times and there is something about her that makes you believe she could be that smart…matching Turing step for step…quip for quip. As his “colleagues,” Matthew Goode and Allen Leech turn in great performances. Each has a moment to shine and each takes that moment and runs with it. Charles Dance and Mark Strong are also very good as Turing’s bosses.

Special kudos must be given to Alexandre Desplat’s magnificent score which suits “The Imitation Game” perfectly. The real black and footage used within the film also lends a great deal of authenticity to the story.

Beginning with television’s WGN America series, “Manhattan,” about the making of the atomic bomb (which has many similarities to “The Imitation Game”) and “The Theory of Everything,” the smartly performed “Imitation Game” joins the growing list of 2014 stories about geniuses and their effect on world events. What makes all of these endeavors work so well is that there are genuine, compelling stories being told and that each one has real heart. Since Turing was eventually convicted of gross indecency, a criminal offence resulting from his admission of maintaining a homosexual relationship, “The Imitation Game” will not necessarily leave you in an uplifted mood…in fact, it could have the opposite effect. Turing, for all of his contributions to the world’s well-being, including being thought of as the father of computer science, was treated abominably. That one can feel so depressed from watching the story unfold from afar…a story that took place many years ago…speaks volumes for everyone associated with “The Imitation Game.”

If you are in the need for a spirit booster upon leaving the theatre, this reviewer suggests seeing “Pride” immediately to see how far we’ve hopefully progressed as human beings.

4 nuggets out of 4

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The Theory of Everything: This Film Has It All—Movie

December 2, 2014

Thankfully one doesn’t have to be a scientist to appreciate the excellence that is “The Theory of Everything.” One just has to love a great story and outstanding acting from a cast that’s simply perfect. Directed by James Marsh with screenplay by Anthony McCarten, based on Jane Hawking’s book, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, “The Theory of Everything” is the story of brilliant theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones) and what a story it is.

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The film begins in 1963 on the Cambridge campus where we get an early look at the wonderful wit of Hawking. Brainiac that he is, Stephen also seems to be beloved by his classmates as just a regular, fun guy. At a party he meets Jane, a fellow student. Jane is a literature major and extremely smart, fully capable of holding her own in conversation with Stephen. There seems to be an immediate attraction. However, Stephen is fairly inarticulate and clumsy around women and it takes some time for the two of them to get together. When they finally do become a couple, sparks literally fly. He has a close relationship with his professor, Dennis Sciama (David Thewlis), who seems to “get” his brilliant student in a way few others do. It’s he who helps guide Stephen in the direction of the topic of his doctoral thesis—the origin of the universe. At a time when everything seems to be coming together for Stephen…academically and personally…it all goes horribly wrong when he suddenly collapses on his way to class. Stephen is diagnosed with motor neuron disease (ALS) and is given two years to live. His first reaction is to hole up in his room, seeing and telling no one. Finally he confides in his friend, Brian (Harry Lloyd), who tells Jane. Stephen wants to call it quits with Jane, but she manages to convince him otherwise. They marry soon thereafter and two children come in quick succession. Stephen’s condition worsens…from one cane to two canes to wheelchair…but he is adamant in wanting their life to be as normal as possible and refuses to get help, saying they can’t afford it and don’t need it. Through it all, Jane somehow manages to take care of him, the two children and their home. Jane’s mother (Emily Watson) realizes that Jane needs something more in her life and suggests she join the church choir. It’s there that Jane meets Jonathan (Charlie Cox), the church choir director. He’s a widower and offers to assist Jane in any way he can. Stephen finally decides that help is needed and approaches Jonathan about becoming his nurse and he accepts. Despite the ALS, Stephen and Jane have one more child. Unfortunately Stephen develops pneumonia and although a tracheostomy saves his life, he loses the ability to speak…a robotic voice replacing his real voice. Jonathan eventually leaves and another nurse—the attractive, light-hearted, Elaine (Maxine Peake), takes his place. With this change, all go on to the next phase of their lives.

“The Theory of Everything” is powerful on so many levels. Director Marsh does a great job in showing us through Eddie Redmayne’s performance the kind of man Hawking was and is, beginning with his early college years. Stephen is brilliant, smart alecky, joyous and very human. Marsh provides small hints of the disease that is about to strike, but when the disease finally hits full throttle, it’s still a shock. The film doesn’t make Stephen out to be a saint…brilliance and ALS aside…he shows him to be a real person. Cinematographer Benoît Delhomme does a wonderful job in shooting the film. Several sequences are shot like old-fashion home movies to show the passage of time in joyous fashion which works just beautifully.

“The Theory of Everything’s” performances are universally terrific—not one false note among them—but three come to the forefront. Charlie Cox, reminding one of a young Colin Firth, is wonderful as Jonathan. His character basically saves Jane’s life and Cox perfectly captures the myriad of feelings he has for Jane and Stephen. As Jane, Felicity Jones is absolutely astounding. Hers is a fabulous performance. She epitomizes Jane’s tenacity and love to the fullest. Jane is just the right match for Stephen and so it is with Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne. One can only hope she’ll be remembered come the awards season. Finally there is Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking. His is the most amazing performance of the 2014 movie year. Words can’t describe how fantastic he is. Physically and emotionally he is Hawking. He manages to find the essence that is Hawking…his joie de vivre in particular. When Hawking succeeds, it feels like we are watching the real Hawking succeed and feel his joy at so doing. Redmayne comes as close as one can in making the audience know what it’s like to have ALS. He never goes over the top. He is just absolutely pitch-perfect. Watching Redmayne is like watching a star, in every sense of the word, being born. He more than deserves every award that comes his way…and one hopes that there are many.

“The Theory of Everything” has everything one can ask of a film—wonderful story powerfully told and fantastic, fabulous acting. It should be on everyone’s must-see list.

4 nuggets out of 4


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