September 11, 2014
Cumberbitches and Redmaniacs, rejoice: You've got a pair of awards contenders on your hands—err… minds.
For the uninitiated, the Toronto International Film Festival is, aside from being one of the largest, most overwhelming film fests in the world, fertile ground for Oscar bait. The proof is in the poutine. American Beauty, Ray, Black Swan, and The King’s Speech, to name a few, all bowed in Toronto, and all received Academy Award wins for their stars. Most of the acting buzz at the ’14 edition of TIFF has concerned the performances of Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne in a pair of biopics that were practically stitched by hand in a clandestine awards factory beneath the Dolby Theatre.
Let’s start with the stronger of the two. In The Imitation Game, Cumberbatch portrays Alan Turing, a math prodigy and cryptanalyst who’s tasked by Prime Minister Winston Churchill with leading an elite group of code-breakers at Hut 8—a sector of Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. Their mission is to break the Nazis’ Enigma code, their highly encrypted and presumably indecipherable method of communicating with their naval fleet via radio transmissions. “We’re going to break an unbreakable Nazi code, and win the war,” says Turing.
Directed by Morten Tydum from a screenplay by Graham Moore, the film chronicles Turing’s tragic life (via flashbacks) from his days as a bullied, reticent budding genius who falls for his boarding school classmate, to his World War II heroism, to the subsequent witch hunt in the days after the war that leads to his 1952 conviction on the grounds of “indecency” for engaging in a homosexual tryst—illegal in the U.K. until the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalized homosexual behavior. Turing was offered the option of two years in prison or oestrogen injections—tantamount to chemical castration. He opted for the latter, and two years later, took his own life by ingesting cyanide.