Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 54 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some Sexual References, Mature Thematic Material and Historical Smoking
Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Written by: Graham Moore
(based on the book ALAN TURING: THE ENIGMA by Andrew Hodges)
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Allen Leech & Matthew Beard
When one usually thinks of World War II movies, they picture battlefields full of dead bodies and soldiers engaged in bloody combat. THE IMITATION GAME offers neither of these and that’s part of the reason it stands out so much from hundreds of other historical dramas made about this time period. Instead, this non-linear drama focuses on Alan Turing, a mathematician who secretly helped end the war by cracking an seemingly impossible Nazi code. Seeing as this film combines a biopic and a WWII drama, it seems like the ideal candidate for Academy Award attention (whether it wound up being good or not). The film is more than just good because IMITATION GAME is an emotionally engaging and compelling story through and through.
The UK has declared war on Germany and it’s the outcome doesn’t look good. This is partially because the Nazis use an unbreakable code known as Enigma. Alan Turing is a brilliant mathematician hired to help decode Enigma. While his fellow staff members scramble through various unreadable messages on a daily basis, Alan is working on a machine that could very well help win the war. His complicated invention (the basis for computers) is constantly bombarded by an inability to connect to those around him in a normal way and his commanding officers hassling him as a waste of time. The film follows Turing from childhood to his amazing contribution to the war and his eventual fate at the hands of government regulations. It’s a true, tragic, and wholly emotional life brilliantly brought to film.
THE IMITATION GAME is told in a non-linear fashion. We flash through Turing’s later years (as he’s being investigated by a police officer), his long process in breaking Enigma, and his childhood years at a boarding school. This style of story-telling works extremely well given this context. If it were told in a purely linear way from his childhood to his death, IMITATION GAME might come off as boring as opposed to the interesting and fresh film that it really is. Benedict Cumberbatch fully disappears into his role as Alan Turing. He was undoubtedly a genius, but was also a secret homosexual (which was illegal in England at the time) and clearly autistic. The former contributes more tension being built up around his hidden identity and the latter is not focused in too much detail but is obvious. Cumberbatch makes this unique hero into someone who the viewer can fully relate to, regardless of their own sexuality or mental state.
Supporting cast members deliver in their roles too. Keira Knightley might have delivered her best performance yet as Joan Clarke. Matthew Goode and Allen Leech are equally fantastic as Turing’s co-workers. Mark Strong and Charles Dance aren’t given much screen time as higher-ups with polar opposite personalities, but make the most of the scenes they have. The biggest compliment that can be given to IMITATION GAME is making a story about a group of people stuck in a hut trying to crack a code feel like they are on a battlefield with gunfire and explosions. While the movie cuts to shots of war-torn landscapes to illustrate battles are being fought as this group struggles to crack secret messages, there’s a solid amount of tension built between these characters. The suspense becomes even more intense as suspicions of a Soviet spy hiding among them heighten.
If there any complaints are to be leveled at this film, they come in a couple of scenes becoming the tiniest bit cheesy. Maybe, this is especially demonstrated in an epilogue that throws one or two title cards too many at the viewer. This is a minor flaw that I had with an otherwise fantastic film. The movie is remarkably well shot and written. It seems to have done justice to the life of a dedicated hero whose work lay in secrecy for 50 years and hammers home just how upsetting the tragedy was in Turing’s fate.
THE IMITATION GAME is a war story unlike any that I’ve seen before. Most WWII films center around battles, the Holocaust or POW camps, but this movie reminds the viewer that those working in an office to fight against the Nazis had just as much of an important role in winning the Big War. Benefitting from a brilliantly constructed script, a fascinating true story, and stunning performances, THE IMITATION GAME is absolutely worth your time!