Friday, April 3, 2015

The Imitation Game Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
During the winter of 1952, British authorities entered the home of mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to investigate a reported burglary. They instead ended up arresting Turing himself on charges of “gross indecency” – an accusation that would lead to his devastating conviction for the criminal offense of homosexuality. Little did officials know, they were actually incriminating the pioneer of modern-day computing. Famously leading a motley group of scholars, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers, he was credited with cracking the so-called unbreakable codes of Germany's World War II Enigma machine. An intense and haunting portrayal of a brilliant, complicated man, The Imitation Game is the story of a genius who under nail-biting pressure helped to shorten the war and, in turn, save thousands of lives.
Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a mathematician and cryptanalyst. At the age of 27 Turing is recruited to work at Bletchley Radio Manufacturing. This is a covert assignment where he and a small team are tasked to crack the German Enigma machine. The Enigma allows the Germans to send coded messages. The British have a machine in their possession but there are seemingly endless combinations and the code changes daily. Alan is intrigued by the idea and gets to work. The task requires the right minds hard at work and money and supplies. Alan doesn’t get along with his colleagues (and probably most people) and someone in charge decides Alan is not worth the time or the money. Rather than be removed from the project Alan writes directly to Winston Churchill. Soon Alan has the required funds and equipment he needs and is now in charge of the project. 

Alan knows that he needs brilliants minds at work on breaking the code. He prints a crossword puzzle in the newspaper and asks anyone who can solve the puzzle in a specific amount of time to come for further scrutiny. Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) responds to the puzzle and blows the competition out of the water. Because she is a woman, few people take her seriously. Turing recognizes her intelligence and brings her on board. 

Turing is an eccentric man to say the least and it’s definitely not in his nature to work as part of a team. He is the perfect man to solve the unsolvable. Turning does crack the code and helps to shorten World War II, saving countless lives. Alan and his team were not only brilliant enough to crack the code, they were smart enough not to use it in a way that would give away the fact that they had solved it. Once the Germans had been alerted that the British cracked the code, they would have ceased using the device. Even with very personal connections to the lives lost in the war, the team had to determine exactly how many lives they would have to let go in order to end the war.

Later, the authorities are called to Turing’s home to investigate a burglary and instead he is arrested for gross indecency. That accusation leads to a conviction for homosexuality, a criminal offense. The father of modern computing and the man who helped to end World War II is given a prison sentence instead of a medal.

The Imitation Game recently received eight Academy Award Nominations and took home the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film’s cover boasts that it is the “Best Film of the Year” and I’m inclined to agree. It’s certainly the best performance Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightley have ever delivered. My movie tastes lie solidly in fiction. Usually if I’m raving about a film, it’s full of vampires, werewolves and occasionally superheroes. I retained next to nothing I learned in High School or College History classes and only took the ones required for graduation. I also often joke that I don’t recognize any time period that came before I did. So that means that for me, history began in October 1977. 

The fact that this movie intrigued me, goes to show how impressive the writing, acting and story really is. The life of Alan Turing is and should be haunting. For people like me (historically-challenged) the film uncovers many new ideas. For those with a better grasp of history, the Imitation Game is bound to enlighten you on Turing’s life. The film is based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma. I absolutely plan to read the book and learn more about Turing’s short 41 years on this planet. The best movies make you want to learn more, and The Imitation Game certainly does that. I was already a fan of Cumberbatch but had no idea he could deliver such a touching performance. He brings Turing and all his eccentricities to life and does justice to the memory of a great man.

The Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay is certainly deserved. The film does an amazing job of providing just enough historical background while introducing a lot of information. It is easy to follow, heart wrenching at times but heartwarming at others, and I highly recommend the film. All who are attached to this film should be proud of their work.
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
The Imitation Game's 1080p Blu-ray presentation is practically perfect. The film is shown in a 2.39:1 ratio with excellent clarity. Skin tones are pale but accurate and consistent throughout the film. Clothing textures, wear on machines and equipment and the use of a muted color palette all help to sell the time period. The production designers should be applauded for their part in this stellar presentation.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Imitation Game's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is well balanced and natural. The radio broadcasts feel straight out of the war. This is a dialogue heavy film which remains intelligible and consistent. There are few sounds of war but plenty of machinery and other sound effects to nicely round out the audio presentation.
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Imitation Game contains a short list of extras that provide interesting background information. A UV digital copy is included in addition to the following bonus features:
  • Audio Commentary: Director Morten Tyldum and Screenwriter Graham Moore discuss the history behind the film, the structure, casting, performances and more. This feature is well worth the time for anyone who enjoyed the film.
  • The Making of The Imitation Game (22:45): An in depth look at the plot and characters with a focus on Alan Turing and the events that took place in real life. This feature touches on the cast and score as well.
  • Deleted Scenes - Two deleted scenes: “Nock Is Being Followed” and “Nock Discovers Alan”.
  • Q&A Highlights – Almost thirty minutes of clips from three Q&A sessions at the Telluride Film Festival, Screen Actors Guild and a third with moderator David Friendly. 
Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Imitation Game includes amazing performances, great writing and a touching true story. All involved did a great job and made a story about World War II appeal to a non-history buff. The film made me want to learn more about Alan Turing and I will likely purchase the book which will be one of a dozen non-fiction books I’ve read in my lifetime. Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray is near perfect visually and the audio is pretty close to that. The list of extras is short but significant. This is the first time I wasn’t hoping for blooper reels and gags. Instead I would have liked to hear more from Cumberbatch about his research and process. The Imitation Game is highly recommended on Blu-ray.

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