Starting in late October — almost two months after the Toronto International Film Festival and a couple weeks after the New York Film Festival — we see a crop of films come out that we know have a specific expectation attached to them; the expectation that they will receive any number of Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. For the Academy Awards, these films are dramas — comedies rarely see the Oscar stage, unless they’re animated. They’re also very polished, star notable celebrities going to great lengths to secure a nomination for their performances, and quite often they’re based on true accounts.
Film award selection committees love a good biopic. We’re drawn into film stories we know to be based in truth for a number of reasons: if it’s a person or event we remember seeing in our lifetime, we want to see the film’s take on that event or person. If it’s a biopic adapted from a memoir or biography — like this year’s Wild with Reese Witherspoon — we want to see how the film adaptation plays against the book. Sometimes it’s as simple as an intriguing story we haven’t heard before, but we’re told it’s true so we need to find out if seeing is believing. Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game is one of those rare biopics which happens to qualify in all of these areas.
The Imitation Game stars white-hot, English actor, Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as the genius mathematician and logician, Alan Turing. Based on Andrew Hodges’ biography, “Alan Turing: The Enigma”, The Imitation Game showcases the life of Turing from his formidable years at an English boarding school, up to the moments before his death at age 41 from cyanide poisoning.
The film spends most of its run time on the years Turing spent at Bletchley Park working to crack the Enigma Code. It’s here in these scenes the film really shines. It plays like a tense, sharp, thriller that also happens to be based on true events. Tyldum is smart in taking what could have been a standard, historical biopic and putting it through this tense, espionage thriller filter. In another crew’s hands, this is a film where you watch a man do some math to solve a puzzle — stiff and dull. But with The Imitation Game, the writing, directing and performances by some fantastic actors — Cumberbatch, of course, alongside Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, Charles Dance, and Mark Strong — come together to create a film where, yes, you watch a group of people do math, but more than that. It’s a film that plays like a high stakes, nail-biting, spy thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat until its sad, final moments when the real world kicks back in again and you’re reminded of our genius hero’s tragic and unjust end.
The Imitation Game opens Friday, December 12th at the Burns as a Westchester Exclusive where it will continue through the New Year. Tickets are on sale now! If you’re looking to keep yourself ahead of the curve with this season’s nomination-bound films, this is an excellent place to start.