The Imitation Game

 

Another movie based on a true story, The Imitation Game tells a fascinating story of brilliant minds deducing methods to break Germany’s unbreakable Enigma cryptography code during World War II.

The genius of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) causes him to be a bit of an egotist. He knows how smart he is and he flaunts it: first, with Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) at the UK’s secret code-breaking agency; later, with his co-workers who have a hard time liking the guy.

Intercepting the Germans’ encrypted messages was easy. The mission to break the constantly changing code was deemed impossible. But Turing and his team made it happen. They required patience and a major outlay of funds from the government to finance the project. With Winston Churchill’s support, they got the money. The result was an early, primitive version of a modern day computer.

The team battles a series of frustrations. In the film, when they are able to finally break the code, they can’t share the info they obtain. Their fear that the Germans would quickly realize that the Allies know their plans might compromise the whole mission. Ultimately, the breaking of the code was credited with saving millions of lives.

The Imitation Game has similarities to the current release The Theory of Everything. Both central characters are brilliant British men who have circumstances that could challenge their abilities to accomplish great things. For Stephen Hawking in Theory, the challenge is ALS. For Turing, the challenge is his closeted homosexuality. (Turing was actually arrested for being gay.)

Keira Knightley appears as Turing’s friend Joan Clarke, a fellow code breaker. Her character’s significance is said to be inflated a bit in the film, but Knightley provides box office appeal and a feminine presence in a male-dominated movie.

The story of Alan Turing and his work is one that has not been widely told while many have been familiar with Hawking for decades. Benedict Cumberbatch is a certain best actor nominee and The Imitation Game is a likely best picture nominee. The film is directed by Norway native Morten Tyldum.

The Imitation Game is one of 2014’s best films and one that I recommend highly.

 

 

Fury

 

Fury is a beautifully constructed WWII movie. The story, the script, the characters, the acting, the tanks, the effects are all top-notch. But is it special? That’s the big question about Fury. It’s a truly entertaining film, and maybe that’s enough.

Fury is a tank, commanded by “Wardaddy” (Brad Pitt). He’s fought Germans in Africa, France and, now, on the Krauts’ home turf. The film is set in spring 1945, just weeks before the war’s end. Germany is reeling, but the bloody battles continue.

When any war movie introduces its characters, you know: some will die; some will survive. Wardaddy’s group includes the religious Swan (Shia LeBoeuf), Latino “Gordo” (Michael Pena) and redneck “Coon-Ass” (Jon Bernthal).

The most interesting character in Fury is Norman, a callow youth played by Logan Lerman. Norman is a pencil pusher, just 8 weeks into his Army career, when he’s somehow assigned to Wardaddy’s crew. He is unprepared for witnessing death and certainly not ready to kill people.

A couple of battle scenes set up the final showdown. The faceoff between Fury (and other American tanks) against a bigger, stronger German tank depicts the intense effort of those inside the tank and the constant movement of the tanks for strategic positioning. (A note at the movie’s opening notes that American tanks did not quite measure up to German tanks.)

A sequence that follows the takeover of a German town shows Wardaddy and Norman enjoying a cordial visit with 2 German women. It’s a moment of quiet humanity amidst the horror of war. Later, the other 3 tank men crash the party and behave uncouthly until Wardaddy takes control.

When Fury is assigned to go it alone and defend a key rural intersection, they sit and wait for German activity. Norman scouts from a hillside and spots hundreds of Germans on their way for the film’s climactic battle, which is loud, intense and furious.

Writer/director David Ayer frames the film with memorable opening and closing shots and his overhead shots of the tank positioning are cleverly shot. In Fury, though most of the action occurs during daytime, the days are gray and dismal—appropriate for the grim business of war.

As Fury depicts it, war is hell. WWII, particularly so.