The Academy Awards are just days away—which means it’s time to buckle down and really get to know this year’s Best Picture contenders. Today’s deep-dive: The Imitation Game, a.k.a. Peak Cumberbatch: The Movie.
Name: The Imitation Game
Tweetable description: Benedict Cumberbatch plays a prickly, arrogant, socially impaired mega-genius, for a change.
Movie Math: The Imitation Game ≤ The Theory of Everything
Release date: Nov. 28, 2014 (limited); Dec. 25, 2014 (wide)
DVD release date: March 31, 2015
Run time: 114 minutes
Box office: First weekend (wide): $7.9 million; total domestic (so far): $80 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89 percent
What Chris Nashawaty said: “I suspect some people will find The Imitation Game’s tidier plot contrivances and on-the-nose metaphors to be too conventionally Hollywood, or grouse that Turing’s rougher edges have been sanded down to achieve a genteel, for-your-consideration polish. I can think of worse sins. Especially because the film is anchored by yet another hypnotically complex Cumberbatch performance. He’s turning greatness into a habit. B+“
Best Line: Alan Turing (Cumberbatch), remembering V-E day: “Was I God? No. Because God didn’t win the war. We did.” (It’s interesting to note that the finished film actually softened this line; in Graham Moore’s original script, Turing says, “God didn’t win the war. I did,” emphasis added.)
Worst Line: “Sometimes it is the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” It’s an attempted mantra that’s repeated twice, by two different characters—but it’s just a little too clunky and wordy.
Number of Oscar nods: A whopping eight, making The Imitation Game the year’s third-most nominated movie. (Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel scored nine apiece.) And the nominations are: Best Picture, Best Director (Tyldum), Best Actor (Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actress (Keira Knightley), Best Adapted Screenplay (Graham Moore), Best Editing (William Goldenberg), Best Production Design (Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald), and Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat).
The movie’s Oscar history: The majority of The Imitation Game‘s nominees, including Cumberbatch, are Oscar first-timers. There are, however, a few previous nominees and one previous winner here: editor Goldenberg has five nods total to his name and won the Film Editing award in 2013, for Argo. (He was nominated that same year for Zero Dark Thirty as well. Overachiever.) Knightley scored one previous nomination—Best Actress for Pride & Prejudice—back in 2006. And finally, there’s Desplat, a frequent Oscar bridesmaid; since 2007, he’s scored seven career nominations but zero wins. Perhaps 2015 will be his year, as he’s up for Original Score awards for both Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
What it’s won thus far: A whole lot of nominations—from the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and various guilds, including Screen Actors and Directors—but few actual victories. It was named one of the top 10 films of 2014 by AFI and the National Board of Review, and won the People’s Choice Award for Best Film at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival as well. Oh, and Graham Moore scored the WGA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay this past weekend.
Why it should win: Between its British setting, its fact-based screenplay, its World War II focus, its showy performances, and its mission to shine a spotlight on a tragic genius whose contributions to world knowledge can’t be understated—Alan Turing, the mathematician who helped to crack the Nazi Enigma code and went on to become the godfather of computer science—The Imitation Game may be one of the Oscar-iest movies that’s ever Oscared. Which isn’t meant as a dig: Imitation runs like a well-oiled machine, an exemplar of awards bait that’s also genuinely entertaining. And Cumberbatch and Knightley’s unique relationship—she plays a female codebreaker who forms a platonic bond with the closeted Turing—does give the story an unusual, much-appreciated extra dimension, making it zippier than typical Academy Awards fare.
Why it shouldn’t win: Maybe because it was created in an Oscar Machine specifically to win awards. Any other year, everything listed above might’ve been enough to get Imitation the gold (see: The King’s Speech)—but in 2015, with less conventional options like Birdman and Boyhood on the table, the movie’s risk-free Oscar-osity might be what’s keeping it a perpetual nominee rather than a victor. There’s also the fact that Turing’s story has been massaged—fairly significantly—to make it more movie-friendly, though this hasn’t drawn as much ire as it has in the cases of Selma and American Sniper.
Vegas Odds: 33/1, according to Las Vegas Sports Betting.