Film, In Review: The Imitation Game

The year is 1941.

Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Turing) in "The Imitation Game".

Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Turing) in “The Imitation Game”.

Buried within the depths of a war, without reprieve, lies a mystery beyond human ingenuity. Enigma: the coded system used by the Nazis during World War II to implore horror amongst their unsuspecting targets. In a ravenous counterattack, Commander Denniston (Charles Dance), of the British Army, deepens his search to recruit the best minds Britain’s got to offer. Amidst the tedious search emerges one Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), logician, cryptanalyst, and mathematician.

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Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Turing) in “The Imitation Game”

Aided by a team of astute mathematicians, Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard), and Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), Alan is constrained to the confines of Bletchley Park to decipher the Germanic weapon, end the war, and save the world in “The Imitation Game”. Usurped from the pages of Alan Turing’s biography, “The Imitation Game” tells a story about a man whom no one imagined anything of, only for him, to do the unimaginable. An outcast indefinitely, Alan shied away from social activities and was disliked by his peers throughout his academic career. He refuses to work with others, insisting that he works better alone. Shunned from the outside world, Alan chooses instead to bury himself within the crevices of his cluttered apartment neglecting every invitation to join his comrades until they desist from inviting him to anything at all. Eventually, his relationship with Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightley) is able to salvage his work, diminish collegiate tension, and restore the synchronicity that made their collective brilliance insurmountable.

Nonetheless, the film’s most compelling feature lies in its interwoven plot lines.

On the surface, Alan faces enigma, his greatest challenge, yet beneath his Confucius exterior boils a treasonous desire.

Unbeknownst to his colleagues, Alan is a homosexual. Riveting flashbacks portray Alan’s humble beginnings, his dreams, his nightmares; a childhood companion who unraveled the fabric of his every being.

Allen Leech (John Cairncross), Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Turing), Kiera Knightley (Joan Clarke, Matthew Beard (Peter Hilton), and Matthew Goode (Hugh Alexander) in "The Imitation Game"

Allen Leech (John Cairncross), Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Turing), Kiera Knightley (Joan Clarke, Matthew Beard (Peter Hilton), and Matthew Goode (Hugh Alexander) in “The Imitation Game”

Now, in adulthood, Alan is fraught with an inability to fully reciprocate with friends and co-workers as a result of his childhood trauma. As time weakens, he is forced to subdue his desires for the greater good, to end the war. Meanwhile, Detective Robert Nock (Rory Kinnear) is on the hunt for a Russian spy who is said to have infiltrated Bletchley Park and unfortunately, Alan is Nock’s prime suspect. For Alan, Enigma is the least of his worries. With suspicion mounting, his lucrative secret lingers on the brink of an ever growing war, and time is running out.

A masterpiece in visual entertainment, director Morten Tyldum creates a spectacle in the stretch of his own imagination. Technically, the film is marvellous. Multiple pans cascade across the screen fluidly, an array of angles, and wide and close shots used efficiently yet not overbearingly.

Kiera Knightley (Joan Clarke), Mark Strong (Stewart Menzies), and Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Turing) in "The Imitation Game".

Kiera Knightley (Joan Clarke), Mark Strong (Stewart Menzies), and Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Turing) in “The Imitation Game”.

The nuanced screenplay written by Graham Moore, based on the book by biographer Andrew Hodges, is further illuminated through Cumberbatch’s flawless portrayal of Turing. An invigorating performance held by actor Kiera Knightley as she graces the screen as the only female scholar to make a significant contribution to the Enigma effort. Though Joan’s presence is soon tolerated, even welcomed, we are constantly reminded that she is not one of the boys; in fact, she is undoubtedly in a league of her own. Captivating Turing, she manages to create a bond strong enough to withhold the most indiscriminate of ties all the while affirming, and subtly re-affirming, that her allegiance, and intelligence, is vital to this momentous task. Supporting actors Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, and Mark Strong are a fine addition to a biopic doused in heroism and vapid misfortune.

Granted, Tyldum’s portrait is admirable, but the ingenuity that was Alan Turing cannot be accomplished in under two hours.  He was a composite of brilliance, incomprehensible to his peers and tormented because of it.

At its utmost, “The Imitation Game” is indeed superb storytelling. For a war that has amassed a colourless wave of invention, patriotism, and death, the greater threat seems to have, ideally, lay within the minds of those who admonish individuality for the sake of complacency.

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