#1: The Imitation Game
There are many big names in Hollywood – but at 19 letters Benedict Cumberbatch is surely one of the biggest
This quirky British actor is slowly gaining himself a reputation playing intense characters such as Khan (Staff Trek: Into Darkness), Stephen Hawking (TV series Hawking), Sherlock Holmes (TV series Sherlock), Julian Assange and now legendary mathematician and war time code breaker Alan Turing
The film follows the story of Bletchley Park – where the team test with the seemingly impossible challenge of breaking the Enigma code were based, focusing on Turing and his relationship with the rest of the team, although it does so in a semi-flashback some years later when Turing is brought in for questioning following a break-in at his apartment which initially leads to him being suspected as being a Soviet spy.
Benedict Cumberbatch is a highly skilled actor who manages to make Turing both an outsider and also ultimately likeable character, who struggles to communicate with others due to his obsession with the giant computer he is trying to build – the first of its kind. Keira Knightley is also strong as the main female, who due to restrictions on women working on the project has to perform her mathematics almost secretly. How much of the story, aside from the focus on the Enigma machine is true is debatable – however this is a tense and enjoyable story that keeps you interested from start to end and at the end, when you discover the eventual fate of Turing (for those who don’t already know at the start) you feel genuinely angry on his behalf and for those who suffered the same fate
This is well worth watching if only for the story of Bletchley Park - which may have been one of the best kept secrets of WW2
#2 The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
When the original film came out a couple of years ago it was the surprise hit of the year – a film about a bunch of old age pensioners who, for various reasons, decide to retire to a dilapidated hotel in India where they find a new lease of life. The film appealed to a whole generation of cinema goers who were being overlooked in the rush to fill the cinemas with films about robots hitting each other and with a strong ensemble cast that included almost all of Britain’s acting elite, a plethora of exotic locations and plenty of humour it was an enjoyable and oddly life-affirming film
This sequel carries on where the first film left off – with the residents of the now flourishing hotel finally settling in as the young proprietor tries to juggle expanding his empire, the imminent arrival of a hotel inspector and his forthcoming nuptials.
Cue Richard Gere turning up, wooing the ladies and much confusion as to whether he is/isn’t the expected Hotel Inspector (a plot that many have likened to an episode of the sit-com Fawlty Towers)
Pretty much everyone in the cinema seemed to enjoy the film and I have to say it was certainly nice enough to look at whilst it was happening, but there was something slightly missing from the film that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Perhaps it was the way that the plot twists seemed to be sign-posted for all to see or that the action all seemed a bit by the book but there seemed to be something of the heart of the original story that was missing from this.
All in all it was an enjoyable enough film at the time and it carried enough good will through from the first film to get away with it – but it left me feeling oddly like I’d eaten an average takeaway meal: when you go for the meal you are thinking how much you are looking forward to it, and you scoff it down quickly enough – but at the end you still feel slightly empty and want to bite into something a bit more tasty
And then we come to Pride.
It’s almost impossible to describe to anyone not from England what the words “1980s”, “Margaret Thatcher” and “Strike” evoke but the Miners Strikes of the 70s and 80s were one of the most turbulent times in our recent history – on the one hand you had an ancient industry that was struggling to cope in the modern world, competing against foreign fuels and finding the communities that lay behind the industry struggling to earn a decent wage and on the other hand you had a strong Conservative government determined to break the power of the Unions after decades of strikes no matter what the cost to the people – starving them out and turning the Police on them wherever necessary
And in the middle of all this, in a true story that history had all but forgotten, was a small Gay community surrounding a special interest bookshop in London that decided that they could associate with what the miners were experiencing at the hands of the police (having experienced brutality at the hands of the Police and others) and decided that they wanted to help
Finding that none of the unions wanted to be publically associated with a Gay and Lesbian group for fear of the negative publicity they approached a small welsh mining community directly and went on to become one of the most reliable sources of food and fundraising during the latter days of the strike
The fact that over a week after seeing this film I’m struggling to write this review without getting emotional tells you something about what an absolutely amazing film this was: funny and shocking, tearful and uplifting with a cast that included Bill Nighy (who seems to get everywhere), Imelda Staunton and Ben Schnetzer as Mark Ashton (the leader of the group) – it really is a film that you will find yourself going back to mentally time and again after the end credits roll
Clearly, being a period piece, this film uses some of the language and prejudices of the times and for me one of the most uplifting things of seeing this at the cinema was to hear the gasps of shock at the way people were treated purely due to their sexuality and to realise how much those attitudes have changed – although admittedly I was saddened to see that in the USA all references to Homosexuality have been removed from the DVD case to help increase sales (I’d be interested to sit in the front room of anyone who buys the film without knowing the content to see what they make of it as a result!)
I can’t possibly recommend this film enough – it is the best film I have seen in a long, long time and anyone who walks away from the ending without a tear in their eye is no friend of mine