The Imitation Game (2014) – Review

Directed by Morten Tyldum
Written by Graham Moore from Andrew Hodges
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode
English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, helps crack the Enigma code during World War II.

Hailed by some of those, albeit a little predictably, that matter in our game as ‘The Best British Film of the Year’, this biopic of cryptological genius and privileged, plum-mouthed maverick academic Alan Turing was never going to be an easy sell for mass appeal audiences. Step forward then Mr Benedict Cumberbatch, man of the moment and all round oddly charismatic-looking fellow to take on a role that could quite possibly define his career if you believe the gushing plaudits bursting forth from the lips of every grateful critic we’ve come across so far.
And you really can’t deny it, Cumberbatch’s performance is indeed impressive, but you might well suggest that this is nothing more than inspired casting and good timing. The film needed a Turing that was quintessentially English, with an abrupt, even rude, free side order of stiff-upper boarding school haughtiness with a vulnerability that implied an emotional state that could best be described as, well…fragile. No mean feat, and as I say, pulled off with a great deal of aplomb.
As much a tragedy about a love lost as a triumph of technological achievement, The Imitation Game leads its audience on something of ‘A Beautiful Mind’ waltz of misunderstood brilliance wrapped up in the enigma of a man that was as worthy a description of the individual as the name of the Nazi machine he was trying to break into.
Hopping around its timeline, the main threads of Turing’s life are focused here on his experiences as a schoolboy, the point at which his doomed love for a fellow pupil took hold as he is also inspired to delve into code-breaking for the first time. This adolescent fumbling and general awkwardness is complimented very nicely by the other notable moments, featuring Turing’s time at Bletchley Park during the construction of his machine at the onset of World War II, and the time of his arrest for being a homosexual in the early fifties.
Probably most notable for Cumberbatch’s performance more than any other aspect, as a history lesson into what may be a largely overlooked (for good reason) period and consequence of Turing’s work, it is an excellent guide for the uninitiated, who reasonably had little knowledge of the subject, being that the project had been guarded by secrecy for the best part of fifty years.
Supported most notably by Keira Knightley, playing Joan Clarke, herself a gifted cryptographer of some regard, their relationship, both unusual and professionally profitable, is given full credit for the successes that they both achieved individually, though it may lack some of the nitty-gritty that the enthusiasts may appreciate, in order to make the film more accessible. Knightley’s performance is solid and measured, still playing fiddle to Cumberbatch, the inarguable star of the show.
Overall, an often tragic story, but one worthy of telling nonetheless, highlighting an unfortunate time in our history as a race, in times of both internal and external conflict. On several occasions, you may be reminded of just how lucky we are to be living in the time we presently are and the performances, direction and scripting are testament to just how far we have come from where Turing suffered both personally and professionally. Too late for the great man, unfortunately, but a lesson for all of us, that is eminently worth listening to.

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