Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Imitation Game (2014)


Alan Turing: Are you paying attention? Good. If you are not listening carefully, you will miss things. Important things. I will not pause, I will not repeat myself, and you will not interrupt me. You think that because you're sitting where you are, and I am sitting where I am, that you are in control of what is about to happen. You're mistaken. I am in control, because I know things that you do not know.
Alan Turing: What I will need from you now is a commitment. You will listen closely, and you will not judge me until I am finished. If you cannot commit to this, then please leave the room. But if you choose to stay, remember you chose to be here. What happens from this moment forward is not my responsibility. It's yours. Pay attention.

Here lies the Enigma: What do you get when you add a British incredible actor plus an equally British talanted cast to portray the team that broke Enigma during the Second World War, alongside with an underlying backstory of the prosecution of homosexuals during the 1950s England? A profound intriguing film that shows you the trials of a homosexual who was denied to be acknowledge for his brilliance in aiding WWII, but was otherwise prosecuted for what his sexual orientation was. 

'The Imitation Game' is the based on the true story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain's top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. (

This film goes out in the heart of the story; the streneous path that Professor Turing faced, after the end of WWII. It all boils down to Benedict Cumberbatch's performance and how provocatively ludicrous his ideas were the fundamental reason for breaking the impossible Enigma. Cumberbatch, who in recent years has proven to be somewhat of a glorified genius in his portrayal as the equally brilliant but insane Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series, he's once again cast to portray the insane genius of Turning; the profound amazement in his performance derives from his eloquence to make you pay attention to his thought process. The portrayal takes on a different dynamics as it not only focusses on his mathematical genius to break the code, but the hidden truth that Turing was a homosexual. Cumberbatch gave the role a horrowing meaning of what it felt like to be ashamed of what he is, to be living in the shadows, long after he would be considered the catalyst for ending the worst war that his humanity has ever seen. 

Grasping all the messages on how horrendous it was for someone who was a homosexual to live at those times, this film lacks empathy I believe. Albeit the remarakbly sad story of Turing, the script lacks the emotional stamina to make you break down in overwhelming tears of what occurred to Turning long after the war. What's lacking though in empathy due to pacing issues, makes up for in brilliant performances that enagage the viewer of the injustice and shameful acts that were exercised upon the real Alan Turing. 

The film engrosses the viewer only by the sadness of the true story, but it's technical and more practical logistical executions are within a mediocre standard of that of an independent film that's trying to find it's niche. 

Regardless, it is without a doubt that 'The Imitation Game' holds its reigns high up due to the evocative performances. Hence it's also nominations for a Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. A notable mention to the ever struggling growth as a serious actress of Keira Knightley, who after years of costume drama portrayals seems to have hit the target in her portrayal of Turing's trusted friend/colleague and brief fiance in the film. 

This is an incredible story, a story that has been hidden in the shadows waiting to be told. It was only a matter of finding its narrative storyteller that would enfold the essence of Alan Turing's life events and what it means for humanity. The transcedance of acceptance and human justice resonate throughout the film's duration. Be sure to acknowledge Turing's brilliant work when you watch it, but be even more prepared to aknowledge the man behind the code. 


Monday, 9 February 2015

The Theory of Everything (2014)


Stephen Hawking: There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there's life, there is hope.

"The Theory of Everything" is the story of the most brilliant and celebrated physicist of our time, Stephen Hawking, and Jane Wilde the arts student he fell in love with whilst studying at Cambridge in the 1960s. Little was expected from Stephen Hawking, a bright but shiftless student of cosmology, given just two years to live following the diagnosis of a fatal illness at 21 years of age. He became galvanized, however, by the love of fellow Cambridge student, Jane Wilde, and he went on to be called the successor to Einstein, as well as a husband and father to their three children. Over the course of their marriage as Stephen's body collapsed and his academic renown soared, fault lines were exposed that tested the lineaments of their relationship and dramatically altered the course of both of their lives.

Undoubtedly, Stephen Hawking is one of modern science's greatest minds, even perhaps the greatest. His life is not the first time that attracted filmmakers to be able to tell his story and how this brilliant mind came to be and managed to live for so many years with a fatal disease. His extraordinary life achievements and his willpower to preserve for so long, is not only ideolized but something to give humanity hope and great faith. 

James Marsh's subtle and tender approach on Hawking's story is a mere reminder of how cosmic situations can occur within a man's lifetime; from the flamboyance of the Cambridge genius onto the mehcanics of dealing with motor neuron disease. Marsh doesn't just let you into the excruciating agony that the disease upheld for Hawkings, but rather makes you a private spectator on his most intimate emotional moments once he was diagnosed. The director deviates from suger-coated the truth on how Hawking's personal life unfolded through the years as well, as this would misrepresent and misdirect the basic elements that encircled what Hawkings is; a genuine pragmatist, who never ceases to search for the truth. 

Quite frankly, this is not a story that has not been known or told before, but the true challenge came about the protagonist, Stephen Hawkings himself. In the film, Hawkins is portrayed by the skilled and tremendously unique, Eddie Redmayne. Having seen Redmayne both on film, TV and stage, I must confess that I was intrigued when I first heard of his casting. This role is not just a challenge for any actor physically, but would Redmayne be able to prove up to the mental obligations that came along with the role? It is that glorious moment when you sit in the cinema room, and once you see Redmayne's sweet and humble face, extol that "while there is life, there is hope", it is in that moment when tears swell and roll down your cheeks without you even noticing. It is in the moment when he mechanically tells his ex-wife Jane (Felicity Jones), to "look at what we have accomplished" whilst they both look at their three children running around in the Royal Gardens. 

It is a wondrous feeling when you get to see actors like Redmayne and Jones,who seem to have blossomed on screen in recent years. Both share the flare of British actors, who came from small BBC roles, flourished into US TV Cable roles, then went onto do a film big budget films here and there, whilst keeping their indie Brit roles at hand too, doing a bit of stage on the side once their schedules allowed them to be back home for that too, and finally and ultimately both finding their way into their role that would give them both the Oscar nod, along with a string of many other awards to come by. 

What truly is overwhelming though with 'The Theory of Everything' is the ability to humanize even the most hopeless of situations. The sheer and tremendous human sensitivity that Marsh fights to leave emblazed on screen, when everything else seems to be fruitless and without a reason. The film is an anthem to human existence and the single thing that keeps it alive; hope. 

This is not just a film about the Big Bang or black holes and Creators of the Universe, but about the human existence and the unfathomable strive to preserve. 

Personally, I believe that Redmayne and Jones, as well as Marsh, deserve whole heartedely the Oscar nominations, albeit it is my personal preference of Michael Keaton receiving the golden statue for the Best Actor category. Likewise, the film is a glorious one, but equally so it is also my belief that it is not as strong a contender to go over ahead 'Boyhood' or 'Birdman' this year. But regardless of whoever does take the statue and the glory home, this is the gem of movies for this year. A humble sensitive hymn to humanity, that everyone should get to watch.


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Selma (2014)


Martin Luther King Jr.: [somberly yet passionately speaking to church congregation at a funeral] Who murdered Jimmie Lee Jackson? Every white lawman who abuses the law to terrorize. Every white politician who feeds on prejudice and hatred. Every white preacher who preaches the bible and stays silent before his white congregation. Who murdered Jimmie Lee Jackson? Every Negro man and woman who stands by without joining this fight as their brothers and sisters are brutalized, humiliated, and ripped from this Earth.

Ava DuVernay is a director who dared to speak about the historical march of Martin Luther King Jr. on Selma, Alabama in the early 1960s. Despite the Academy's omission of nominating DuVernay for Best Director, this film resonates the transcendent message of what Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to achieve so many decades before.

'Selma' is the unforgettable true story chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. 

A bold directorial move on behalf of DuVernay and an even bolder subject to speak about. According to many public information online, despite the strenuous and tumultuous journey this film had had so far, after 10 years in development, DuVernay not only managed to take the reigns and achieve something worthwhile, but she re-wrote almost the entirety of the script, and edited out all the original speeches that were going to be used when this film was first developing. This however, and the numerous obstacles that the production faced along the way in making this film, is one of the many reasons why in its entirety this film is lacking in some way; from execution to development, the film is found wanting throughout its 2-hour span. 

The remarkable role of Martin Luther King, Jr is portrayed by the evocative David Oyelowo, who not only extols in his portrayal of the historical heritage of this man, but dignifies him by his vigorousness and his humility in the way he approached the script. Now baring in mind, what a profound significance this role has on world history, is reason enough to make any actor be in awe in the portrayal of Dr. King, Jr. Oyelowo's monumental portrayal is one that focuses more on the abundance of raising awareness and feelings of justice and equality, rather than playing upon the physicality of the character. He manages to underlay such a capturing of the multifaceted personality that does engage with the audience enough to prove how current still the words of Martin Luther King, Jr are. 

Albeit the gravity of the message being promoted through the story line, the film is lacking in its ability to engage the audience from the get go. The trouble with this, is not in the lack of empathy on the events that unraveled in 1965. The main lacking problem with the film is the long stretchy moments of hopelessnes and victimization that could make the film a lot more pacy and intriguing. Given the thematology, race issues on film are always a sore subject and DuVernay, given the resources and the backing she had, she did justice in her approach to the historical material  that gives the film a significance upon the long line of film that deal with racial equality. 

The grasp of things is that after screening the film, it is only understandable why the Academy chose not to include DuVernay's valiant effort in directing this colossal film, and if we weight upon the film-making achievements on this year's Oscar race, it is only but fair that DuVernay was not nominated for 'Selma'. A worthy nod though came to this film through it's best original song, with the film 'Glory' by John Legend and Common. The track is truly glorious!


Monday, 2 February 2015

Whiplash (2014)


Terence Fletcher: You are a worthless, friendless, faggot-lipped little piece of shit whose mommy left daddy when she figured out he wasn't Eugene O'Neill and who's now weeping and slobbering all over my drum set like a fucking nine-year-old girl! Now, for the final FATHER FUCKING time... SAY IT LOUDER!

Let me just say for starters, I had do idea that drumming was so intense. But director and writer, Damien Chazelle, sure showed me how hard this drumming world can be. 

Last we saw, 'Birdman' was reviewing the insane qualities and quantities of the actor's ego. Now, we have another kind of artistic insanity playing, or should I actually say, drumming through our screens. 'Whiplash' ladies and gentlement, is her to astound you in every literal sense. It is so horrifically amazing, it will make you sweat and drum yourself to sleep at night. 

'Whiplash' follows the story of a young and talented drummer, Andrew Nieman (Miles Teller), attending a prestigious music academy, who finds himself under the wing of the most respected professor at the school, Terence Fletcher (J.K.Simmons), one who does not hold back on abuse towards his students. The two form an odd relationship as the student tries to achieve greatness, and the professor tries to stop him.

The story is hardly sentimental or emotional to say the least, but instead it dwells on the aggressiveness of the forcing power dynamics on each other. Chazelle, so cleverly introduces your protagonist and your antagonist within five minutes time and sets up the story line of what is about to follow. Two characters, play off each other, trying to elevate the action-reaction technique with a compelling rhythym of insensitivity and pain-stakingly high pressure. If I exercise this on him, I will have to get this as a reaction. This whole film is an action-reaction process of what the antagonist will do to get the reaction he wants out of the protagonist. A power struggle in all its glory.

For this purpose Chazelle, very carefully handpicked the roles of J.K. Simmons as the professor, who taunts in every possible way the student, and for the drummer student the roles is portrayed by Miles Teller, who seems not only to have over-performed in this movie, but to have made it so personal in how he would play the drum set that it gave you goosebumps and had you cringe at his every suffering drumming moment. 

Throughout the film, there is a sense of claustrophobia, of bullying and taunting that has you feeling asphyxiated. As if the bullying especially is being exercised on you. This was achieved primarily but the non-cut-aways. Chazelle, lets the scenes flow, lets you experience what it really feels like to be under the pressure, as if you would perform in the band yourself. He rarely let's the audience of the hook, and makes it his purpose to make us feel just like Teller's character feels; the anxiety, the stress, the traumatic yelling and beating until the professor is pleased. The blood, sweat and tears in other words.

This is a film that has the word 'pressure' written all over it. From the moment it starts to the moment if finishes. It does not let you breathe. But it sure gives you one spectacular jazzy ending that sways you long after you've stopped watching it.