Cumberbatch Cracks Nazi Codes as Turing in The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game
Review by Daniel Rester
The Imitation Game tells the story of one of the most important aspects of ending WWII, and one that was held secret for many years. Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is the subject of the film. It is estimated that Turing – a British mathematician and pioneering computer scientist – helped shorten the war by about two to four years by cracking the codes of the Nazi’s Enigma machine.
Turing broke the Nazi codes by inventing a machine – one of the first computers – at Bletchley Park. In the film, he nicknames the machine “Christopher” after Christopher Morcom (Jack Bannon), a childhood friend and quite possibly Alan’s first crush. Turing’s efforts were aided by others, including cryptanalysts Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) and Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode).
Turing and Clarke were engaged at one point, but in reality Turing was a homosexual. Despite his breakthrough work in helping the Allies win the war, Turing was still criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality in the 1950s. He finally received a posthumous pardon in 2013.
Game, based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, covers everything from Turing’s relationship with Morcom to his work at Bletchley Park to his “crimes” after the war. Yet the film, adapted by Graham Moore and directed by Morten Tyldum, never feels too sprawled out. It instead gives us just the right amount of information to tell Turing’s story and show the influences on his work and personal life.
Tyldum’s film allows some interesting details to enter the story without ever letting things get convoluted, but I won’t discuss those details so as not to spoil it for anyone who is more unfamiliar with Turing. The screenplay tackles ideas behind genius, homosexuality, the difference between humans and machines, and much more, giving the audience a rich story with many different things to think about. Moore’s dialogue always feels organic (and is often hilarious) without ever being too science-heavy; it doesn’t hold the audience’s hand, but it gets its points across clearly at the same time.
Cumberbatch and the rest of the cast bring the characters to life in fine fashion. The lead actor gives a star performance that is gaining a lot of praise, and rightfully so. His work as Turing makes the real-life character completely human – a genius, yes, but also a man with emotional troubles. Knightley is bright and welcome as Clarke, and Goode is exceptional as the charming Alexander. Great British actors like Mark Strong and Charles Dance help fill out the supporting roles.
Game’s technical elements are mostly impressive, with Tyldum smoothly handling the different period details for the various times the story takes place in. The costumes by Sammy Sheldon Differ are particularly spot-on. The production design does look somewhat fake in a few scenes, which is a bit distracting; some of the house rubble isn’t completely buyable. Also, the music by Alexander Desplat is beautiful for the most part, but some of the compositions are used in places that don’t feel fitting. This makes a few of the film’s scenes feel off tonally.
Tyldum’s film is one that should be seen by everyone at least once. This is because its primary story is simply too important to be missed. However, I wish Game was a little longer (to flesh a few things out more) and a bit more daring in its approach to Turing’s homosexuality and criminal prosecutions. These elements and a few others lack a certain bite that could have elevated the film even more. Despite my little complaints though, Game is still a highly entertaining and informative picture.
Score: 3 ½ out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: A-).
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking).
Runtime: 1 hour and 54 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: November 28th, 2014.