“The Imitation Game” is clearly an awards contender: Complex, impeccably executed and unique. The film’s offbeat approach to an oddball character will be its greatest strength — and its challenge.
A historical drama about WWII cryptographer Alan Turing, “The Imitation Game” is an awards candidate in multiple categories, including the superb performance of star , as well as Keira Knightley (lead or supporting? She could go either way). Artisan contributions seem like shoo-in contenders, too. And the film, direction and screenplay are clearly in the FYC category.
The big challenge to both mainstream audiences and awards voters will be selling it. Based on Andrew Hodges’ biography on Turing, the British mathematician who cracked the Nazi’s code, “Imitation Game” demands that the audience work to keep up. When awards voters have a stack of DVDs and invitations to screenings, they’ll need a lot of buzz to lure them to a film about a WWII-era computer and the relationships among the real-life English geeks who are building it. What’s more, the first hour lays out events so slowly and carefully that you’re not sure where the film is headed.
The first lines of the movie are “Are you paying attention? Good. If you’re not listening carefully, you will miss things.” That’s a warning to audiences as well, and the second hour paying off big, with a heartbreaking finale. So it’s not an easy sell, but the Weinstein Co. team are experts at handling difficult awards material.
Comparisons are especially hard. At times, the WWII-era geeks of “Imitation Game” make it seem like “Big Bang Theory” as depicted on “Masterpiece Theatre.” In terms of awards precedents, it could be compared to “A Beautiful Mind,” “Atonement” (which also featured Knightley and Cumberbatch) and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” They all got awards attention, but to varying degrees.
The film ultimately celebrates anyone who is not “normal.” As director Morten Tyldum said at the Telluride Festival screening on Friday, he liked the message: namely “how important it is that someone is different.” That will turn off some voters but it should appeal to showbiz creatives. Because if there ever was a place where differences were celebrated, Hollywood is it.