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The Most Dangerous Game
By Colleen Foster
Crossword puzzles. Even when you go hardcore by doing them in ink instead of pencil, they’re not exactly the stuff of high-stakes situations. The only kind of killing generally associated with them is killing time on the john or in airport terminals.
Not killing, say, Nazis.
In The Imitation Game, directed by Morten Tyldum and released on November 28th, a newspaper crossword is exactly how the British government wrestles up recruits during World War II for a top-secret project. The resulting team of code-breakers, headed by the mathematically brilliant but socially isolated Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), is assembled with one goal in mind: to crack the German forces’ daunting Enigma machine and intercept their messages.
This means cracking a new impossibly convoluted code every twenty-four hours, with bombs hovering in the balance. Thousands of lives are at stake. Three died while you were reading the previous paragraph. It's as if your inability to recall some obscure South American mountain range for 34 Down resulted in your entire extended family being shoved off of it.
As Turing, Benedict Cumberbatch—whose name is so amusingly, quintessentially British that all it needs is a “the Third” suffix—shows remarkably adept acting. He somehow dodges the characterization minefield that is playing a character on the autistic spectrum, what his 1930s-40s contemporaries describe as being “an odd bird.” His idiosyncrasies don’t overpower the rest of him and become some DSM-V stereotype.
Then there’s the fact that he’s gay, which at the time in Britain was practically a war crime in and of itself and punished just as mercilessly. Somehow his coming-out doesn’t seem to phase his co-decoder fiancée, Joan (Keira Knightley), who is either too sexually repressed and work-focused to be deterred, and/or potentially LGBTQ herself.
Psychoanalysis of her character aside, Knightley has come a long way from Pirates of the Caribbean. Even if, speaking of idiosyncrasies, she still grits her teeth whenever she’s enraged. She deserves far more credit than she gets for the earnestness of her acting. As the 25-year-old English maths (remember that “s;” we’re in Britain, old chap) graduate who inadvertently finds herself in a top-secret group of Nazi code-crackers, she’s neither naïve nor cocky. Either side of that coin would be too far, but she keeps deftly flipping it.
Here we encounter a different kind of “war movie.” It’s oceans away from the brutal opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, or Robert Duvall commenting on the smell of napalm in the morning. But it’s just as visceral. We’re watching the gears churn frantically, desperately in someone’s mind as they see their planet's welfare resting on a bowl of alphabet soup. All while trying to keep their own baggage from killing them. Gargantuan risks, both small- and large-scale.
Your move, Adolf.
#Real #Movies #FilmReview #TheImitationGame#Nazis #MortenTyldum #BritishCulture #HistoricalFiction #KeiraKnightley
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