The Imitation Game
In this film Benedict Cumberbatch plays real life math genius Alan Turing, better known as the man who broke the once-impenetrable Enigma Code of the Nazis in World War II, thereby shortening the war by 2-3 years. I found Benedict Cumberbatch the perfect person to play the conflicted and misunderstood Alan Turing, then again Cumberbatch is known to play misunderstood (or misguided) geniuses like Sherlock and Khan. The film follows his trials in creating the machine that would one day break the Enigma code, his inner conflict of trying to fit in a society that wants him to get married yet he can't, because he is a homosexual. Imitation Game feels like Ron Howard's a Beautiful Mind without the confusing story, it is direct and straight to the point, the tension is present from the onset.
The Theory of Everything
Following up with another genius is the film about Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Jane (Felicity Jones). Essentially a love story, the film opens up on how the two eventually fell in love, interspersed of course with Hawking's attempt at explaining scientific concepts such as the Black Hole and his dissertation (later on counter-dissertation) on time. More than just a love story it is also about the transcendence of friendship across time, it is also about how one man faced the challenge of only being given two years to live but ended up living up to today. A beautifully written story wherein the characters don't necessary end up living happily ever after, but end up working hand in hand to make something beautiful.
I feel that every year there has to be a film on one of many major wars that the United States has participated in. Last year saw the directorial debut of Angelina Jolie with her adaptation of Lauren Hillenbrand's "Unbroken". Unbroken is the story of American Olympic runner Louis Zamperini and how he survived the entirety of World War II with an unbroken spirit. The film follows his successes as an Olympic athlete and eventually takes a full 180* turn for the worse. Jolie explores Zamperini's unwavering spirit in his trials of surviving for more than a month at sea, being beaten and tortured by the Japanese in a POW camp, and finally just surviving until the war ends. Not as powerful as the other films but it was a good film that brings to light the human spirit and redemption.
Films on the Iraq-Afghanistan War have becoming prominent lately, starting with 2009's The Hurt Locker, 2013's Zero Dark Thirty and this year's American Sniper. Another biopic of the life of Chris Kyle (Brandon Cooper) as he is transformed from typical Southern Red Neck, to the efficient killing machine of the US Army, to a PTSD afflicted veteran and withdrawn family man. American Sniper is a sad story, it glorifies the war and rationalizes American involvement in troubled areas. More than that, American Sniper puts out the message that for many soldiers, war becomes a drug, a high that can only be satisfied by entering the battlefield once again.