The Imitation Game

In the interests of full disclosure, Alan Turing has been a hero of mine ever since college. This movie focuses primarily on the events surrounding Project Ultra and the breaking of the Enigma machine code. This film can be watched in isolation without knowing much about the great man, but knowing anything about him greatly adds to the movie. Alan Turing was not an easy man to work with due to his character, but by all accounts a person who could be worked with, once you got to know him.
The subject of this film was a state secret until the 1970’s and it was not until the 1980s and 1990s that his work here was fully appreciated. The title of the movie is taken from one of his pre-war papers on machine intelligence. I should at this stage point out that Alan Turing is regarded as one of the founding fathers of Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Computing, bio-mathematics and is credited with building the first machine that we today would consider a computer. His untimely death at the age of 41 has left the world wondering what more could he have achieved.
The cast is first-class and lead by Benedict Cumberbatch (August Osage County, 2013), who plays a powerful Turing, even down to the cheekbones. Cumberbatch through his Sherlock has proven to be an actor capable of pulling off the most complex characterisations. The difficulty with Turing is that he is a real person, with mannerisms remembered by people so no room for movement. This is also seen in how the movie treats history itself.
Credit must be given to the Director Morten Tyldum (Head Hunters 2012) and writers Andrew Hodges (the book) and Graham Moore (screenplay) for managing even if only by reference to place other factors in to the movie. We see the work of the Polish Scientist of the 1920s in breaking an earlier version being used as inspiration. Even to the end we can see posters and sketches on his wall at home which relate to the pioneering work he did on the mathematical theory of embryology.
Keira Knightly (London Boulevard, 2010) give a bravura performance of the hard put-upon Joan Clarke, the only woman in the group – who had to be kept secret and apart from the rest of the all-male group. Indeed the movie also handles well the undercurrent of prejudices and morals which prevailed at that time. She manages to play perfectly against his character, the two of them working well together. Charles Dance (Game of Thrones, 2011-2015 plays the part of Commander Denniston, the officer in charge of Bletchley Park and the person who has to fight against Turing. The humour of the situation is seen in one of the run-ins Turing and Denniston have; asked who was the Commander’s commanding officer, Denniston replies “Churchill”, Turing promptly contacts him to argue his case.
Matthew Goode plays Hugh Alexander, the man who was originally to lead the decryption efforts, but was replaced by Turing, here we see the personalities at work and how they can come together. The use of Mark Strong (Robin Hood, 2010) as the MI6 officer overseeing the activities is an interesting dramatic trick as it allows us to place the Ultra efforts within the overall theatre of war. There are emotional scenes when the team realise they cannot warn potential victims of what they found, because it would give away their secret, this has been an interesting ethics question for many years and nicely and succinctly done here.
We know the story, so there is no need to go through the plot. The story of Turing’s personal life is largely told through flashbacks and flash-forwards to when he is being investigated. If I have a tiny criticism it is how they try to make out that the arrest originated from the police wondering what he had to hide, given his blank (deliberately emptied) war record, was he another of those Communist spies? This movie showed the scientific and technical brilliance of Turing, giving the audience just enough of the technical knowledge necessary (judging by the age profile of the cinema audience where I saw it, I suspect most of the audience was already very familiar with the technicalities).

Overall an affecting movie which despite what might be considered by some (not me) to be a rather boring subject matter, you will be swept up in the progress of the film, you will get to know the characters and you will wait to see the machine working.
The campaign to pardon Turing and have him take his place in history has been active for many years, this hopefully will go some way to giving the great man the recognition he deserves.

A good, fast-flowing movie that cleverly gives the audience a look at these historic events and people without flooding us with technicality. This shows the top-secret work of a small group of people, perhaps never really expected to succeed, and certainly not achieve what they did. Excellent movie. 8/10

The Drop

Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini, Enough Said, 2013), runs a neighbourhood bar, which he used to own until about 10 years previous, when the Chechen mob took it from him. He is aided in running the bar with his cousin Bob ( Tom Hardy, Locke, 2014) who is calm quiet individual, who might be taken for being slow of the mark, but may not be a quiet as he seems. The bar is a mob “drop” bar where once selected for a given night, is the drop point for mob bookies through the city. One particular night, with no special drops, the bar is raided and about $5K stolen. As a result of a head injury to one of the staff, an ambulance is called and so the police. Bob let’s slip that one of the robbers had a broken watch, this turns out to be a vital clue. The detective, Torres (John Ortiz, Fast and Furious, 2006) who is assigned the case turns out to be a regular mass goer in the same church as Bob. Being a detective, he has noticed Bob never takes Communion, he asks Bob about this, but gets no answer, is there something deep and dark in Bob’s past?

As he is dealing with the fall-out from the robbery, he comes across an abandoned and injured puppy in a woman’s rubbish bin, through rescuing the puppy, he gets to know the woman in question, with a delicate fledgling relationship begins. Before it can develop, things take a negative turn. It turns out the puppy was owned by a local thug, Eric Deeds, (Blood Ties, 2013) who also happens to be the ex-boyfriend of the woman in question, Nadia (Noomi Rapace, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 2009). Deeds has been recently released from prison/psychiatric hospital and is widely believed to have cold-bloodily killed a former gang leader and general all-round nasty thug some years ago, this belief has given Deeds a reputation he is happy to live up to.

It soon becomes clear that there was something more behind the robbery, Bob tries to steer a straight line, surviving by keeping his head down, minding his own business and doing nothing to annoy the Chechens.

At first glance we see parallels to the character Hardy played in Lawless (2012) in both cases we see a man getting on with life, quiet and thoughtful, a thinker.   Hardy is to be acknowledged as playing two similar roles but managing to give completely different characters; Forrest was confident and sure is what he was doing, he did not speak because he did not need to. Bob on the other hand comes across as a man not so sure of himself, even taking on the “Responsibility” of the puppy is a matter of concern for him.

AS the plot develops and pressure starts to mount, we learn there is to be an added complication; the bar is to be the drop bar for the mob on Super-bowl night, the biggest money night of the year. Will it be robbed again? One of the original thieves was found and executed with the money returned. However our friend Deeds is involved somehow. As the situation develops, Bob takes precautions to first and foremost protect himself. The night of the big match arrives, and things get complicated, caught up between Deeds, Nadia who is forced there by the more and more deranged Deeds needs to be protected and against all of this is the underlying threat to his dog, which he is not taking lightly. The night unfolds with nothing going to plan. Secrets are revealed, and justice meted out, but to whom.

Hardy is the star of the show, once again transforming himself to the role, Gandolfini plays to his type (excellently, as was his way).

It is a firm 3 star show, nothing overly wrong with it, a lot right with it, but just missing that little extra to make it stand out. Also the role of Detective Torres role comes across as under played. Yes the detective put “two and two “ together to realise the secret of an old mystery and yes he develops a relationship with Hardy but it seems almost like an add-on, maybe suffering a little in editing. There is a certain something missing for some of the film, but noting serious.

Atmospheric and well set, it will keep you entertained. Written by David Lehane (Mystic River, 2003) we can see how Lehane again is able to use the edginess of the situation to move along the story and give a sense of menace to the background which does not need to be overly stated.

The Grand Seduction

This is one of those movies that allows you to just sit back and enjoy it. The plot is straight forward a small fishing harbour in Newfoundland is dying, there are only about 120 people left in the harbour (it is not a village!) and they need to do something about it. That something hinges on there being a doctor in the harbour community.

In the middle of all this is Murray French, (Brendan Gleeson) one of the locals who lives his life in the harbour, like all the other men of the village, he is on the social welfare. The routine of welfare payments and cheque cashing punctuates the life of the town. As it happens a petrochemical reprocessing plant is looking to open, but has not selected a site yet. The towns-folk need to act fast. The latest person to leave is the mayor. In the absence of the mayor, Murray steps in and becomes town mayor, assisted by Simon (Gordon Pinsent, Beachcombers 1975-1978) a neighbour who fully understands what needs to be done and Henry Tilley, (Mark Critch, Republic of Doyle, 2010-2014) who is the local bank manager/clerk, who is very conscious of being only one step away of being replaced by an ATM. The big stumbling blocks are the need to have a resident doctor in the Harbour and the $100K “personal assurances” that the head of the petrochemical company wants. It to the mix is Murray’s view of ethics, he’s very much a “end-justifies

What follows is the discovery of a doctor, who might be persuaded to stay for a month and then possibly longer. Sound familiar? I could be cruel and say this movie is largely unoriginal simply throwing a fresh twist on a plot that has been done excellently a number of times previously. Not least of all, the Gold standard for any such comedy: Whisky Galore, (1949, Alexander Mackendrick) where we see the village come together to plunder a ship full of whisky which has come ashore. The more immediate comparison would be with Doc Hollywood (1991, Michael Caton-Jones) where our hero is sentenced to work in the town as a doctor for a short while following a minor car accident. As with This movie, our hero (Michael J Fox, Back to the Future, 1985). There is also one particular sequence where they are trying to “inflate” the harbour’s population, that reminded me of Ward Bond’s call in The Quiet Man (John Ford, 1952) for his parishioners to shout like good Protestants, as the Anglican Bishop was passing through (to save the Anglican Minister’s parish by having the Bishop think it is somewhat larger than it is).

So, you may be tempted to say we’ve seen it all before. That would be a mistake. What we have here is first class situational comedy. Taylor Kitsch (John Carter 2012) plays Dr Lewis, the up and coming young plastic surgeon whose career has hit a pump by being found with cocaine – as it happens by the former mayor, now working as a customs official, he has an idea!

With that, the town begins to tidy itself up so as to make it look like a place he would want to stay. What follows is a series of rolling jokes like the cliff-top cricket match, the phone monitoring and a dozen other standing jokes. Which all combine to make this a very entertaining movie with gags for all of the family.

What makes this movie work is a concentration on the senses, Director Don McKellar (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, 2010) uses Douglas Koch’s cinematography to its fullest capturing the rugged beauty of the location and of the Harbour, the richness of colour adds to the positive nature of this movie. As well as the visuals, the script itself is razor sharp, much to the credit of Michael Dowse and Ken Scott. Whether or not this is a good thing, the sound track supporting the movie also got itself noticed and favourably.

Sit back and enjoy a light-hearted situational comedy which will leave you feeling as if the world is not all that bad. I’m not going to go through the movie gag-by-gag, but suffice it to say this is a tightly directed ensemble production which works well on every level. Before I finish, in case you think I forgot it, yes there are parallels with the Bill Forsyth’s 1983 classic “Local Hero”, in both cases the movie sets out simply to entertain, and it both cases they did perfectly.

I was tempted to give this a perfect score, I have not laughed with a movie as I did with The Grand seduction in a long time. Nothing is perfect so 9/10.