Imitation Game, The (2014)

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Released 6-May-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Director Morten Tyldum and Screenwriter Graham Moore
Deleted Scenes
Trailer-x 3 for other Roadshow releases
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 109:33
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Morten Tyldum
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch
Keira Nightly
Matthew Goode
Roy Kinnear
Charles Dance
Mark Strong
Allen Leech

Case ?
RPI $44.95 Music Alexandre Desplat


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     The Imitation Game is the ultimately tragic story of genius mathematician Alan Turing, one of the team instrumental in breaking the “unbreakable” German military Enigma code during WW2 and the man who could be regarded as the pioneer of modern computers. Turing was also a homosexual at a time this was a crime in the UK and in the early 1950s he was found guilty of gross indecency. The man who did so much to help win the war committed suicide in 1954, his work hidden in official secrets.

     The Imitation Game unfolds in three time zones. In 1951 the home in Manchester of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is broken into and burgled but when Detective Robert Nock (Roy Kinnear) attends Turing is very rude and abrupt and tells him that nothing is stolen. Nock is suspicious and comes to believe that Turing is hiding something, and may even be a Soviet spy. When Nock is prevented from accessing Turing’s war record, he becomes even more suspicious. The Imitation Game also occasionally delves into Turing’s experiences at boarding school in 1928 but the majority of the film focuses on the work of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park in WW2.

     When WW2 started a group of linguists, mathematicians, chess champions and intelligence officers, including Turing, were recruited and brought to Bletchley Park to attempt to break the German military Enigma code. The leader of the group is Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) and the head of Bletchley Park is Commander Denniston R.N. (Charles Dance), a man who has no time for intellectuals and who dislikes and distrusts Turing especially. The codebreakers are under high security and are watched over by MI6 operative Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong), who has an agenda of his own. Turing believes it will take a machine to break Enigma; when his request for funds to build his machine is denied he writes directly to Winston Churchill who not only approves the money but places Turing in charge of the group. Turing uses his authority to dismiss some members of the team and recruit others including Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) but his arrogant manner and unlikeable personality alienates his team. As time passes and no progress is made Denniston is determined to shut down the project. Then when, against the odds, they succeed in breaking Enigma the personal and moral dilemmas are only beginning.

     The Blu-ray of The Imitation Game has already been reviewed on this site by Trevor and his review can be read here. While The Imitation Game is certainly a good film, I was not quite as enamoured with it as Trevor.

     The Imitation Game was nominated for eight Oscars but won only Best Adapted Screenplay for Graham Moore. Cumberbatch was nominated for best actor, but although he lost out to Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything his is a compelling performance of a man who is arrogant and unlikeable; Turing knew he was more intelligent than others but lacked the social skills to overcome the resentment and dislike that created. At the beginning of the film, especially during Turing’s first “interview” with Commander Denniston and his initial interactions with the codebreaker team, Cumberbatch is at his most Sherlockean; this part was not a stretch for him but later as a sad, lonely and almost broken man Cumberbatch is superb. Keira Knightley was nominated for supporting actress but I must admit I found her familiar mannerisms and performance less than satisfying, and not very 1940ish. But it may have been because the script gave her little to actually work with.

     Although The Imitation Game won the adapted screenplay Oscar, and some of the dialogue is wonderful, my reservation about the film is that it seems to be trying to bring in too much. While it focuses on Turing, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance, the film is powerful and intriguing. One can accept that this is a film, not a documentary, and that dramatic licence occurs but surely there is enough drama in the breaking of the code and Turing’s homosexuality without bringing in the spy subplot John Cairncross (Allen Leech), who was discovered to be a spy in the film by Turing and threatened to expose Turing as a homosexual, never in fact worked with Turing at Bletchley) while the codebreakers themselves never faced the moral dilemma of what intercepts to release – that was done by Intelligence). Add in the machinations of Menzies, the dislike of Denniston, the flashbacks to school and the message about feminism and The Imitation Game sometimes labours under its good intentions.

     The Imitation Game is the first English language film for Norwegian Morten Tyldum, whose last film, Headhunters (2011), I reviewed on this site and enjoyed a lot. His directing style in The Imitation Game is not flashy but restrained, allowing the actors room to work and the story to unfold within the framework of the interviews between Turing and Nock. Tyldum was also nominated for an Oscar, as was The Imitation Game, but both he and the film lost out to the hype of Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). As a piece about a complex man and a complex codebreaking problem, The Imitation Game is a good, almost old fashioned, English period drama; I enjoyed the film but was just not as enthused as some.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Imitation Game is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, the original theatrical ratio being 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is a nice print. Close-ups are crisp and detailed while the colour palate of wartime and post war England is quite drab, with occasional flashes of colour such as the green leaves on the trees at Bletchley. The interior sets within Bletchley are rich in detail – production design was another Oscar nomination for The Imitation Game; it lost to The Grand Budapest Hotel. Blacks are solid, shadow detail excellent, skin tones natural, contrast and brightness consistent.

     The CGI of ships, submarines, aircraft and explosions is fairly noticeable, reflecting the film’s low budget (this European financed film apparently cost only $14M, peanuts by Hollywood standards), and there was some motion blur against panelled walls but otherwise artefacts and marks were absent.

    English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available in a largish white font.

     The layer chance at 55:45 resulted in a slight pause at the end of a scene.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Feature audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps, plus there is an English descriptive audio using a female voice and an audio commentary, both Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kbps.

     The dialogue was clear and easy to understand. This is a film with a lot of interior scenes and conversations with not a lot in the surrounds except music, engines and explosions in some sequences involving ships or aircraft and noise in crowd and pub scenes. The subwoofer supported the engines, the explosions and the music appropriately.

    Lip synchronisation is fine.

    The orchestral score by Alexandre Desplat is epic in places and elsewhere more mellow, supporting well the moods of the film. Desplat and The Imitation Game received another of the film’s Oscar nominations and this time Desplat lost out to himself as he had also been nominated, and won, for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Trailers

     Trailers for St. Vincent (2:21), Foxcatcher (2:10) and A Most Violent Year (2:13) play on start-up. They cannot be selected from the menu.

Audio Commentary

     Director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Graham Moore talk about topics including the scripting and structure of the film, their intentions, locations, the actors, the effects and the music, the sets, things they changed from history and real Enigma machines. This is a lively and decent commentary that is well worth a listen.

Deleted Scenes

     Two deleted scenes: Nock is being followed (2:12) shows how Nock obtained the authority to access Turing’s military records while Nock Discovers Alan (1:30) has Nock finding Alan’s body after his suicide.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Our Blu-ray of The Imitation Game contained the same extras as the US Region A Blu-ray; the commentary and deleted scenes the DVD has plus a making of and a Q&A. I cannot find any reviews of the US DVD but I assume that as our Blu-ray is the same as the US version, the DVD is also probably the same.

Summary

     The Imitation Game tries to fit too many ideas and subplots into what is already an interesting and complex situation, but while the focus is on the character of Alan Turing and the excellent performance of Benedict Cumberbatch the film delivers an intriguing and ultimately tragic story of one of England’s unsung war heroes.

     The video and audio are good, the commentary is interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, June 26, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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