For a film made by a director whom few in America have ever heard of, The Imitation Game certainly came into the Telluride Film Festival with a lot of buzz — having Sherlock’s newly-minted Emmy winner Benedict Cumberbatch as its star and marketing maven Harvey Weinstein’s Weinstein Co. as its distributor certainly didn’t hurt — but it will be leaving here with even more, thanks to a very well received world premiere on Friday evening at the Werner Herzog Theatre. Adapted by Graham Moore from Andrew Hodges’ book Alan Turing: The Enigma, the history-inspired period piece drama is already being called a cross between A Beautiful Mind (2001) and The King’s Speech (2010), two films that won the best picture Oscar. It’s premature to predict the same outcome for The Imitation Game, but with the muscle of Weinstein (who flew out to the Rockies for the premiere) firmly behind it, it’s a fairly safe bet that the film will at least be nominated for that honor — among others.The Nov. 21 release certainly has a lot going for it, including high production values, a beautiful score, a love story, a social message and even a great pull-quote for its posters: “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” But the best thing that it has in its favor is the performance of Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the British mathematician who was recruited by MI6 during World War II to try to decode intercepted German communications. The good news for “Cumberbitches” (the self-ascribed nickname adopted by some of his legions of fans) is that, at least on the big screen, their man has never been better.
For a guy who was instrumental in helping to defeat the Nazis, Turing is not nearly as famous or celebrated as he should be for a variety of reasons. Much of his work was kept secret for decades. He himself has not been around to talk about it. And, frankly, if he were, he might be discouraged from doing so, based on the social awkwardness with which he was almost as associated as his intellectual genius. Indeed, many experts believe that Turing was probably afflicted with Asperger syndrome — he was certainly on the autism spectrum — at a time before such diagnoses existed.
Cumberbatch is perfect for this character and it’s hard to think of anyone else today who could inhabit it. The actor nails the vocal and behavioral manifestations of someone dealing with those sorts of issues (among others) as well as, if not better than, the longstanding gold standard, Hugh Dancy in the 2009 film Adam. And it doesn’t hurt that he also possesses a bit of an otherworldly countenance — he recently told me that he thinks he looks like an otter — since he’s playing a man who is so different from those around him that he seems almost like an alien to them. Anyway, the collective package simply works, and if Cumberbatch doesn’t end up with a best actor Oscar nomination, I will be very surprised.
He does not excel in a bubble, though: he is surrounded in the film by an excellent supporting ensemble, led by Keira Knightley, who is excellent (as always) as Joan Clarke, Turing’s faithful sidekick in matters professional and personal (think: theJennifer Connelly to his Russell Crowe), plus Matthew Goode and Mark Strong, two consistently dependable character actors. I wouldn’t at all rule out the possibility of Knightley cracking into the best supporting actress Oscar field — if, that is, she’s willing to hit the campaign trail a bit, which hasn’t always been the case.
Some may take issue with elements of the film — the historical accuracy of the Turing-Clarke relationship, the failure to really explain how Turing’s “Enigma” device worked, the claims that Turing’s efforts were the difference between victory and defeat in a number of battles and indeed the war itself, etc. — but the overall product is interesting, enjoyable and, my gut tells me, the stuff happy Oscar seasons are made of.
Im soooooo proud of him and so excited to see the movie!
"Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch is in talks to bring his stage Hamlet to the screen. The play begins performances at the Barbican next year, and negotiations for it to be filmed live and shown in cinemas through National Theatre Live for one night are well advanced.
The actor, along with the production’s director Lyndsey Turner and producer Sonia Friedman, has spent more than a year ensuring that this will be a ‘people’s Hamlet’.
‘I felt very strongly that as wide an audience as possible should have access to it,’ Cumberbatch told me.
The Barbican’s allocation of seats for the entire 12-week run, which starts on August 5 next year, have been snapped up already.
But there will be 100 seats available per performance. ‘They will be sprinkled throughout the house … they’re not behind pillars,’ the 38-year-old joked.
He said that he and Ms Turner were eager to make their Hamlet as ‘fresh’ as possible, ‘like a new play that just landed as a pdf in someone’s computer inbox at the Royal Court’, as he described it.
‘We want to escape the idea that it has been done before, and we’re looking at the whole play — not just the eponymous hero.’
Benedict is a thespian polymath. There’s no role he cannot take on.
We had met to discuss another of his projects: a towering portrait — one of the great performances of the year — of Alan Turing, the man who helped break the Nazi’s Enigma code, in the film The Imitation Game.
Watching the movie, I was struck by his approach to Turing: the way he grasped and captured the man, not just the cliched genius. The film is all the more heartbreaking because of it.
The Imitation Game shows how the boundaries of class and status were broken by the disparate group gathered at Bletchley Park.
‘That was an incredible, rag-tag group of brave, stoic, quiet heroes,’ Cumberbatch marvelled.
‘I say rag-tag, in the sense that they were mathematicians, physicists, crossword enthusiasts … really anyone who had an intellect and a prowess that might help solve this puzzle.
‘Turing may have had eccentric behaviour; he may have had certain tropes of being different, but this was a whole team of “different” people, brought together in a crisis.’
The star said that Turing was guileless about his sexuality. ‘When he was arrested by the police he told them outright that he’d had a sexual relationship with another man.
‘He just gave them the information, and the sad thing was that he’dbeen with a rent boy. He’d never had a stable relationship’.
Meanwhile, Cumberbatch has been wearing a bodysuit covered with motion sensors to play and provide the voice of tiger Shere Khan in Andy Serkis’s film Jungle Book: Origins.
And he’s in rehearsals to play crippled Richard III in the new Hollow Crown TV drama series, which will encompass Henry VI, Parts 1 and 2, and Richard III.
He then shoots a Christmas special of Sherlock — the role which won him a best actor Emmy on Monday.
He also has plans to fit in a film or two and, after Hamlet ends next year, will film three more Sherlock episodes. [x]
Martin "I can do that with a look" Freeman.
Emmys Award winner.