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.

Captain Phillips (2013)

“Incredible Acting and a Fascinating Story” 9/10

This film tells the incredible true story of Captain Richard Phillips who captained a cargo ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. Told from the perspective of Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) himself, the story recounts his ordeal aboard the ship and the ways in which he bravely deals with the pirate leader, Muse (Barkhad Abdi).

Set nearly entirely aboard the ship that Captain Phillips took charge of, there is a dramatic tension running throughout the film, even before the story really kicks off. What really makes this film so good is knowing that the story is true and you can’t help but be captured by the bravery and courage demonstrated, and the realisation that these events are still so current, so memorable from news stories not too many years ago. It is no surprise that this film was highly nominated for Academy awards: Tom Hanks gives an outstanding performance as Captain Phillips, a heroic and likeable character that offers a surprising flip side to the way in which the Somali pirates are viewed and offering real compassion and understanding in a way that is truly admirable. However I felt that the limelight was stolen by newcomer Barkhad Abdi with an impressively convincing and complex performance as the hijacker’s leader, again offering the chance for the viewer to change their preconceptions with a persuasive character.

I highly recommend Captain Phillips, it’s gripping, thrilling and really changes your perspective on the situation throughout through some incredible acting. A must-see.

The Fifth Estate (2013)

“A Thought-Provoking, Well-Executed Depiction of an Intriguing Story” 10/10

 

The Wikileaks story was one of the biggest news events of recent times due to its controversial nature, and it seemed to appear from nowhere. Suddenly the media was buzzing about leaked confidential documents and the mysterious character of Julian Assange. The Fifth Estate is a dramatic biography based on these real events, and tells the story from the perspective of one of Assange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) colleagues, Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl). I knew about the story but only what had been covered in the media, and it turns out that it was just the tip of the iceberg.

The Fifth Estate is filmed in such a style that it tells the story without it feeling like a documentary – it depicts the unfolding of events from the beginning of the Wikileaks launch to its climactic ending in a way that makes you feel like you understand the entire story clearly, but without effort. It is incredibly linear and easy to follow, and wonderfully visual: the use of graphics to depict the website itself, and the private messages that Assange and Berg use to communicate new leaks, are woven into the acting scenes, reminding you that this is part of a covert world that many of us are entirely unfamiliar with. Particularly well done is the portrayal of the Wikileaks “office” inside Assange’s head, which again reinforces the idea of the secret world of the story.

Most of the film is told from Berg’s perspective and as a result many of the scenes just involve him and Assange. Benedict Cumberbatch shines in one of his most impressive roles, depicting Assange and his mannerisms with a spooky accuracy, and there is a constant air of mystery and depth to his character that remains intriguing throughout the film. This is the first time I have seen Daniel Bruhl in a main role, but having seen him in Inglorious Basterds (2009) I expected a good performance and was not disappointed. Bruhl’s character is every bit as intriguing as that of Assange, and I found myself constantly trying to work him out and understand his underlying motives. I felt that there was an interesting dimension to the relationship between Assange and Berg, a reliance of sorts and a constant fear of misplaced trust, although this is subtle throughout and therefore hard to work out if it is intentional. There are also some great supporting roles to watch out for from the likes of David Thewlis, Peter Capaldi and Alicia Vikander, who all bring their own character’s dimension to add to the mix.

After I saw this film when it first came out I was interested in finding out more about what Julian Assange’s perspective of the story was, and I came across a document published on the Wikileaks site giving his side of the story. It is an incredibly interesting read, and a lot of it ties in with the final scene of the film which is a monologue from Cumberbatch. I felt that I had a fairly solid view of the story whilst watching the film, and then that final scene changed everything. The document from Assange confirms my change of heart about the story, and echoes the message he is always trying to put across: if you want the truth, go out and seek it for yourself. Everyone will of course have their own opinions about the events that unfolded surrounding this story, and I am not in any way dismissing the version presented in The Fifth Estate; instead I choose to believe that there is truth to be found in both the film and from Assange’s perspective.

The Fifth Estate held my interest from the second it began to long after the final scene had ended: it is highly thought-provoking and throws some challenging questions at you about the way we view the world, what we believe to be true, and what we do not and may never know. I can’t recommend this film highly enough.