The Imitation Game (2014)

Touching Performance of a Fascinating Story10/10

The Imitation Game is based on the true story of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a cryptanalyst who became employed by the British Government during World War II to attempt to crack the notorious code machine that the Germans are using to send messages. Socially retracted, Turing struggles to work within his assigned team and instead chooses to work on Enigma, a machine of his own design that he believes will finally crack the code and help stop the war.

I really enjoy documentary style films and was really drawn to the story as I didn’t know much about the life of Alan Turing. His story is fascinating and tragic and the style of the film feels really quite personal and intimate, focusing a lot on the emotional and psychological aspects of his life as much as his work creating Enigma. Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my most admired actors and I feel he really shines in this style of film, much like he did in The Fifth Estate (2013). He’s such an accomplished actor that he brings an extra dimension of personality to the roles of these real life stories and he was absolutely the right choice for Turing, he is capable of offering the right amount of sensitivity that makes you warm to the character, and also excels at acting the socially awkward role without making it feel forced and fake. Cumberbatch was completely the right choice for the lead in this film and I’m really excited to see who’s story he will offer us next. There are a fair few other famous faces making up the rest of the small cast who all compliment the story well and enhance the character of Turing, but most notably I really warmed to Keira Knightly as Joan Clarke, the only woman in the team who not only brings a strong character to the mix but also a softer side that works really well with Cumberbatch and is particularly key towards the end of the film. It would be great to see the two of them work together in another film in future.

The Imitation Game is a beautifully well done film, with Benedict Cumberbatch offering a touching performance in this fascinating story. Regardless of how much you already know about Alan Turing’s story this film is well worth a watch, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Prestige (2006)

Unpredictable, Captivating and Magical 10/10

 

Two magician’s assistants, Robert (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred (Christian Bale), are performing a show-stopping routine when tragedy strikes and the trick goes wrong.  Robert blames Alfred and the two begin a strong rivalry, constantly sabotaging each other’s shows.  However things take an even darker turn when Alfred develops one of the most impressive tricks ever seen and Robert becomes obsessed with discovering his secret and ruining his competitor once and for all.

 

This film is a true hidden gem.  I had absolutely no idea it existed until I came across it in a TV magazine and decided to give it a shot, and I was hooked right from the very start.  It starts with the ending and then works its way through the story from where it all started, capturing your attention instantly by throwing you straight into the action and mystery.  The story itself is a pure work of art – full of plot twists, some of them so huge and unpredictable you’re left shocked, but never at any point is it confusing or hard to keep up with.  Set in Victorian London the feeling of mystery is increased by the complexity of magic tricks that, at the time, would have been utterly amazing.  I love real magic tricks and films about magic (I don’t just mean Harry Potter) and it had a similar feeling of wonder and illusion about it as Now You See Me (2013) which is another fantastic film if magic is your cup of tea.

 

The casting really supports the brilliant story.  Both Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are on top form when they’re playing a gritty role and their respective characters in this suit their acting styles perfectly.  I have a real respect for both actor’s work – Jackman is great in The X Men/Wolverine films and Australia, and Bale really shines in American Hustle- and The Prestige has kept them firmly on my list of favourite actors.  Both of their characters have a tough life and they portray it with a real element of sincerity that really puts the icing on the cake of this fantastic film.  Both men are supported by a great cast of supporting actors too, with a host of famous faces such as Michael Caine, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson and Andy Serkis to name but a few.

 

The Prestige is an amazing hidden gem of a film that is unpredictable, captivating and magical.  Headed up by a terrific cast and a fantastic story, prepare to be entertained, mystified, and shocked, particularly right at the end when you think you’ve got it all worked out. This is one of my new found favourite films and definitely not one to miss out on.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

“A Touching Tale That Suspends Reality” 10/10

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the touching tale of Benjamin (Brad Pitt) who is afflicted with a mysterious condition that sees him age in reverse.  As he slowly comes to terms with his condition he is drawn into the life of his childhood friend Daisy (Cate Blanchett) and is forced to face the tough reality of his reversed life.

 

The first thing that struck me about this film was how much the style is like Forrest Gump (1994).  Told as a narrative from an old Daisy and from the perspective of Benjamin the film plods through each and every point of note in Benjamin’s life, broken by moments of narrative reflection from Daisy in the present day much like Forrest sat on the bench outside the bus stop.  Benjamin himself is a sweet and likeable character with a touch of naivety throughout the whole film, in fair contrast with Daisy who is wild and vivacious.  The second thing that struck me was the quality of the make-up used to alter Brad Pitt’s appearance throughout the film – it is only rarely a little too obvious.  This sounds like a fairly trivial point but I actually feel it is one of the key things that makes this film so heartwarming – there is a genuine element to Benjamin’s character that would fall apart if his appearance was obviously fake.  It’s nice to see such a humble performance from Brad Pitt, and a strong performance from Cate Blanchett, another key point in making this film so strong.

 

If you can suspend your ideas of reality for over two and a half hours then you can really get lost in this touching tale of life and death.  I was really swept into the whole film and its bittersweet story.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one that will stick in your mind and in your heart, thoroughly recommended.

Filth (2013)

“Disturbingly Dark and Honest” 8/10

Filth is an in-your-face, raucous film about corrupt policeman Bruce (James McAvoy) determined that nothing and no one will stand in his way of a promotion which will help him win back his family. As he falls further into his web of lies and deceit he is drawn deeper into drug addiction which causes his life to spiral out of control.

I actually saw this film a few weeks ago and couldn’t really make up my mind about it until I’d really sat and thought about it. It’s so brutal and twisted and leaves you feeling like you’ve been slapped round the face when it ends. Yet, once you started thinking about it and strip all the punch out of it, it’s just very honest in dealing with some incredibly difficult topics that most films usually gloss up a little. It’s not afraid to hit you where it hurts and I was so impressed with the way it manages to be disturbing without being hugely offensive at the same time. As the story unfolds so does Bruce’s mind and there are some huge plot twists that really take you by surprise. James McAvoy is outstanding as the corrupt policeman – I haven’t seen much of his work and the few films that I have seen haven’t overly impressed me but his performance in this blew me away. The entire supporting cast is pretty strong too with some big names like Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan and Jim Broadbent, as well as some smaller names, but McAvoy really does steal the limelight from start to finish.

Filth is disturbingly dark and honest, almost a little too much, which is why I didn’t rate it higher. It did its job of unsettling me to the point where I had to sleep on it for ages before making up my mind about how I would review it. Definitely worth a watch but prepare to be unsettled right from the very first minute.

The Green Mile (1999)

“Beautifully Acted and Touching” 9/10

 

The Green Mile looks at life on Death Row, told from the perspective of guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) who recounts, as an old man, his encounter with mysterious prisoner John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a convicted child murder who has more to his story than meets the eye, including a very curious ability.

 

This film is such a classic and it’s beautifully acted.  Tom Hanks is an incredible actor and he delivers yet another exceptional performance as the sensitive guard willing to treat his prisoners like people, unlike his colleagues such as the harsh and unforgiving Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison).  Michael Clarke Duncan delivers a really touching performance that culminates into an emotional ending that may bring a few tears.  Even the other prisoners, played by Michael Jeter and Sam Rockwell, offer emotive performances with their own descent into madness knowing that they are waiting to die.  The majority of the film is set in either the prison block or the electric chair room, which helps to reinforce the intense feeling of entrapment.

 

The story itself is a little unusual as there is a touch of the supernatural throughout, however it’s surprisingly easy to accept this into the normality of the film.  As you can expect from a film about Death Row it is a little upsetting to watch at times, but it’s mostly a carefully woven story that gently unravels the history of the prisoners and why they are all there, focusing much more on the emotional aspects of such a setting for both the prisoners and the guards, rather than the physicality of it.  I only have one real criticism: it was too long.  At just over three hours long I felt like it was losing its emotional momentum and could have managed without some scenes and been just as, if not more, powerful a film.  Nevertheless don’t be put off by the length, unlike some lengthy films there are no points where you get bored watching it drag on, and even if you feel yourself getting lost towards middle of it, the final third brings you right back into it.

 

The Green Mile is beautifully acted and a really touching classic film.  Despite being a little unnecessarily long it offers a real heartfelt journey and an unusual story that will really evoke some emotion – well worth the three hours of the film!

The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

“Interesting Love Story But Hard to Follow” 7/10

 

The Deep Blue Sea is a period romance focusing on Hester (Rachel Weisz), the wife of a judge who embarks on an affair with the reckless RAF pilot Freddie (Tom Hiddleston). However, overcome with a mixture of guilt and disappointment that her new life isn’t quite what she’d hoped, she makes a dramatic decision which has disastrous consequences for herself and her relationships.

This film has quite a poignant story – it focuses a lot on emotion and doubt which are highly relatable even outwith the situation of the story itself. The period setting gives it a somehow more romantic edge and it really is an interesting love story. You can’t help but understand the problems that Hester experiences with her troubled life, and the “grass is greener” feeling that draws her towards a seemingly more exciting life with Freddie. The story ebbs and flows in parallel with Hester’s feelings, and at times takes some dark turns. Despite the story being good, I felt really let down by the direction – the scenes constantly switch between present day and very recent flashbacks with little discerning detail as to which is which. I found myself lost at many points during the film, unable to work out where it was in the story and having to rely on the odd bit of choice dialogue that would reveal the time setting. This is sadly very off-putting and took away from the punch that the script would have had otherwise.

Despite the scene confusions, Weisz and Hiddleston offer a beautiful, if difficult, romance that is really set alive by the strengths of them as actors. Weisz is on top form with a powerful but vulnerable performance, and Hiddleston suits the role of the troubled romantic (his character in this reminded me a lot of his role in “Only Lovers Left Alive” (2014) in which he was incredible). There was also good performances from smaller characters, most notably Hester’s husband Sir William (Simon Russell Beale) who’s role was vulnerable and gentle, an opposite to the rival of his wife’s affections.

The Deep Blue Sea is quite a powerful and interesting love story, but sadly I felt that the possibility of this film being a great classic romance was tarnished somewhat by the lack of clarity in time shifts. Nevertheless, the story is good and it’s worth a watch for the excellent characters and script.

Carnage (2011)

“A Darkly Comedic Look at Chaotic Personalities” 9/10

 

Carnage is a fascinating and darkly comedic drama that certainly lives up to its title.  Two pairs of parents, the Cowans (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) and the Longstreets (John C Reilly and Jodie Foster) meet up to discuss an incident involving a tussle between their two sons.  The Longstreets invite the Cowans over to their apartment to discuss the appropriate next steps, however the discussion ends up snowballing into total carnage.

 

Nearly the entire film is set in the one room, the Longstreet’s lounge, which in itself makes for fascinating viewing, creating a caged-in, uncomfortable atmosphere.  At the beginning the two sets of parents do not know each other, intensifying that discomfort, and as a viewer watching that one room for the entire film becomes more and more enveloping – towards the end I felt as if I too were trapped in the apartment, unable to escape the spiralling chaos that was unfolding.  The film is based on the play “God of Carnage” which I have seen and enjoyed, so I was glad to see that the effectiveness of the staging had not been lost in its move to the screen.  A good casting was a strong contributing factor in creating this effect of being “drawn in” – in particular the two actresses.  This film is all about clashes and is demonstrated most strongly in the characters.  Winslet’s character is anxious and stressed, keen to move on quickly from the incident with the least fuss; whilst Foster’s character is much more ideological and full of very firm and unchanging views on the world, believing that her son deserves more than just a quick apology.  The two men are also wildly different: Reilly’s character is accommodating and free-flowing (a stark contrast from his wife too) and Waltz, a seriously underrated actor who I would love to see in more things, is a detached father who’s primary concern is his work.  I always find films with character clashes fascinating and this one does it to perfection, embracing some parenting stereotypes to bring the story to a head.

 

It’s difficult to discuss the story without revealing anything about the plot or spoiling the way it unfolds.  It is however really quite realistic of how an argument between complete strangers can develop, eventually skewing this out of proportion as the story progresses.  The ending is bizarre – when I first saw it I felt it was very anti-climactic, however upon reflection I realised that it was actually the best ending that the film could have had.  Some may disagree but I felt that any other ending would have been cheesy or disappointing.

 

Carnage is fascinating and darkly comedic throughout and features a strong cast of wonderfully different characters.  Although the story might be, at times, outrageously exaggerated, I think it’s an interesting watch because it stems from such a believable place.  It’s definitely one to spend some time reflecting on afterwards.