THE IMITATION GAME ★★★
Morten Tyldum’s last film ‘Headhunters’ was on my list of the 10 Best Movies of 2012, so I was very much looking forward to his English-language debut ‘The Imitation Game’. Tyldum taps the right emotions in telling the story of Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician whose cryptoanalytic work was crucial to Britain’s deciphering of the Nazi’s encrypted communications. ‘The Imitation Game’ already has a distributor – The Weinsten Company –, which means it will probably be a big Oscar contender (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor for Benedict Cumberbatch among them). Cumberbach is great – a reserved, understated performance; by holding so much back, it makes his rare full-on displays of his emotion all the more impactful. The film is lively, intelligent, and very well produced even though I feel as if a complicated subject matter has been given the Weinstein Treatment. Turing’s theories are over-simplified and the film focuses more on the social awkwardness of his interactions with his peers. The post-war scenes shift the focus on his persecution as a homosexual, and the disheartening way he was treated by the authorities. I was hoping for a more technical treatment of the subject matter, but the biopic that was made moves at a brisk pace, and is ultimately very affecting.
WHILE WE WERE YOUNG ★★★
‘While We Were Young’ is Noah Baumbach’s most easily accessible and commercial film to date. Think of it as a sort of highbrow ‘Neighbors’ exploring the generational rift between a couple in their 40s (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) and a couple in their mid-20s (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). Much of the humor is centered on a critique of the hipster generation. The younger couple has a massive vinyl collection; he uses a typewriter, she makes her own ice cream. Baumbach isn’t just tackling the fear of getting older, but being “stuck” between multiple age groups. There were big laughs at the screening I attended. ‘While We’re Young’ might be the director’s first film to break out of limited release and find a wider audience. The only thing working against the movie is the fact that it follows ‘Frances Ha’, which I consider to be Baumbach’s masterpiece. Still, ‘While We’re Young’ is very funny, and keenly observant in its social judgment.
OVER YOUR DEAD BODY ★★
Takashi Miike’s addition to the life-imitating-theater subgenre is even more disgusting that you would expect from the filmmaker in ‘Over Your Dead Body’. The actor in this play-within-a-movie setup portrays a feudal lord paying a hefty price for betraying his own wife. As the actors delve deeper into their performances, the line between fantasy and reality becomes blurred. And altogether invisible for me. I had trouble following this; I often had to ask myself if what I was watching was the play or “real” events as far as the characters were concerned. The build-up is rather tedious right up to the point that it becomes completely bat-shit crazy. But, even die-hard fans of Miike may find that they need a caffeinated beverage in hand until the bloodbath begins. ‘Over Your Dead Body’ has some striking set design, but mostly just sits there and marinates in its bloody mediocrity.
Director Fabrice Du Welz introduced ‘Alleluia’ by saying “Love makes us do crazy things. Hopefully, you don’t do anything as crazy as the characters in my movie.” This tale of star-crossed lovers and straight up carnage is yet another movie based on the true crime story of Lonely Hearts Killers Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez. Their murderous exploits were previously brought to the screen in ‘The Honeymoon Killers’, and ‘Deep Crimson’. Du Welz doesn’t deviate much from the hard facts of story, which depletes the film of its suspense and horror. The film becomes wearying as it plays out variations of the same obsession-based scenarios with one grotesque murder after another. The claustrophobic close-ups (which indicate how far Du Welz pushes his performers for emotion) are occasionally effective. However, I couldn’t help but feel that this telescopic approach showed us a troubled character all too easily without allowing us to make up our own minds.