Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game could have been a top-notch film, but I found it to be hampered by its insistence on jumping around the timeline of Alan Turing’s life. In one section, it explores Turing’s childhood during his time in a private school, where he falls in love with a boy named Christopher. In another section, it explores Turing’s life after the war, as a nosy police investigator uncovers Turing’s homosexuality. In a third section, we see Turing working with a team of codebreakers to crack the Enigma machine and make a major contribution to stopping World War 2. Just from those descriptions, it should be easy to see which of these sections is the most interesting, and I think The Imitation Game‘s greatest misstep was not making the film solely about the Enigma machine and Turing’s efforts to uncover its secrets. These moments of the movie are utterly fascinating and really convey what a genius Turing was. While I understand that Turing’s homosexuality was a major part of his life, and ultimately contributed to his death, I find the man’s research and discovers far more interesting. Every time the film cut away from a codebreaking scene, I found myself thinking “get one with it!” It was especially frustrating when the film cut away from something interesting to show us a montage of WW2 stock footage with voiceover saying what amounted to “War is bad!” Benedict Cumberbatch, Kiera Knightley and Matthew Goode all give solid performances, and on a technical level the film is well put-together. But overall, this could have been an absolutely rivetting movie had it not fallen victim to the Hollywood conventions of a biopic.
3.25 out of 5

The Theory of Everything
Here’s yet another example of an interesting story that was squandered because of Hollywood’s biopic formula. Stephen Hawking’s life and work have lots of potential to make a great movie out of them, but the end result felt to me like misery porn. Hawking’s a brilliant man, there’s no doubt about it, so why, then was The Theory of Everything predominantly about his struggle with ALS and not about the incredible discoveries and theories that made him famous? His writing of A Brief History of Time is barely a footnote in the movie, which, ultimately, felt to me like a grave disservice to Hawking’s legacy. But perhaps the greatest failure of this film is that it does not contain any palpable conflict. Hawking struggles with his affliction, but there is no antagonist, no conflict to drive the story forward. It feels like a bullet-point movie. There are some good performances, especially from David Thewlis, but after seeing his atrocious turn in Jupiter Ascending, I couldn’t take Eddie Redmayne seriously in the lead role. Ultimately, The Theory of Everything felt like Oscar bait and nothing more: a movie manufactured to win awards and make everyone feel warm and fuzzy while simultaneously not paying enough tribute to its subject.
2.5 out of 5

American Sniper
Clint Eastwood’s output in recent years just hasn’t impressed me, and American Sniper is no exception. The message of the film – that war is addictive and will always be with you even when you’re at home – was tackled much better in The Hurt Locker, in my opinion, and The Hurt Locker also had the benefit of having a fictional protagonist. By making Chris Kyle the protagonist of American Sniper, Eastwood is inviting us to examine the life of the real Chris Kyle, and according to what I’ve read, he was a rather unsavoury person. The ending is also unfortunate, so SPOILER ALERT. The film ends with Kyle hugging his wife and kids before leaving home to go meet some friends at the gun range. The movie then cuts to black and shows a title card that reads “Chris Kyle was killed later that day by a veteran he was trying to help.” This was a ludicrous way to end the movie, made even more ridiculous by the fact that it was how Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – a movie made to parody Hollywood biopics – also ended. Up until the end, I had been lukewarm on the movie, but the title card throwaway ending, with no context given whatsoever, just pissed me off. American Sniper is well directed and technically competent, and Bradley Cooper does a good job (though perhaps not worthy of an Oscar nomination) in the lead role, but ultimately this film left me completely cold.
2 out of 5

See you next Sunday for more thrilling short reviews!

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