The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch as the quirky British war hero Alan Turing is a fascinating film, it strives to be somewhat autobiographical in nature, while it gives a truncated version of Turing’s contribution to the mastering of the Nazi code machine Enigma. The movie also tells of the horrid injustice done to the man who could be called the father of the modern day computer. Alan was a homosexual at a time when it was against the law in England and after the war the man was prosecuted under the Draconian laws of that time and rather than go to prison, Turing opted for chemical castration, aka hormonal treatment. Two years after his conviction the 41 year old secret war hero was found dead from cyanide poisoning.
The Imitation Game runs at just under two hours and is based upon the biographical work of Andrew Hodges and it attempts to tell the story of the man who was instrumental in helping turn the tide of the second world war. His work, which was classified, and would be so for quite a number of years, should have resulted in decorations and world wide admiration and instead was buried in Whitehall vaults protected by the Official Secrets Act.
Directed by Norwegian director Morten Tyldum (Who directed the superb 2011 film Headhunters) and based on a screenplay by Graham Moore in his first feature length film script the film moves along pretty well. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness, War Horse) Rory Kinnear (Skyfall, Wild Target), Matthew Goode (Stoker, Watchmen)Keira Knightley (Laggies, Pride & Prejudice), Charles Dance (Last Action Hero, Dracula Untold), Mark Strong (Kick-Ass, Sherlock Holmes) and wealth of British character actors. The Imitation Game may give Benedict Cumberbatch another award for his portrayal of the quirky British war hero.
In terms of performances, everyone does a stellar job here. Mark Strong is excellent as the MI6 head whose behaviour can best be described as mischievous. Strong also has one of the funnier scenes in the movie, where his character interacts with Turing talking about spies and Russia. Matthew Goode is spot on as the womanising Hugh and Charles Dance is completely droll and quite intimidating in his part. Keira Knightley, who was called far too glamorous to be cast as Joan Clarke, does a brilliant job of the incredibly gifted woman who almost married Alan. Cumberbatch does stand out in his portrayal of the hero later victimised by English laws in The Imitation Game.
It is difficult to sum up all that Alan Turing was and how much the whole team at Hut 8 did to help win the war and, possibly, shorten it by two years in one under-two hour movie. The film does try, alluding to the fact that Alan was a long distance runner, had proposed to Joan Clarke admitting his homosexuality (Joan, with her wonderfully unflappable British acceptance of this news was perhaps a bit stereotypical but funny nonetheless.), his close friendship with a lad who died from Bovine Tuberculosis and his arrest and conviction for being a gay after the war. One of the things that the film leaves out is that Turing was actually “hoist by his own petard” when he was way too forthcoming in his police interview.
A lot of facts are left out, glossed over and changed for either impact, or by necessity. The Imitation Game, is a combination of genres: Thriller, Mystery, Biography, Historical and lastly it could be called a sociological tale of what being a gay man was like in WWII and immediately afterward. Regardless of what genres it represents, the film catches one up in its journey of discovery about how this small group of very special people cracked a code thought to be unbreakable and the price Turing paid for his contribution. It is a gripping movie to watch and so English that the audience could almost hear seagulls and smell the North Sea while watching it.
It is this Englishness that may lose The Imitation Game any real chances at an Oscar for his remarkable performance. Benedict Cumberbatch most certainly should get one of the small gold statuettes for his portrayal of the quirky British hero. While this may be overlooked, at the very least, the film has redressed the imbalance, and inaccuracies, of the Hollywood version of Enigma and Alan Turing. The Imitation Game could be labelled the best of British Cinema and will open December 25, 2014. Prepare to be impressed and to get caught up in the story of an unlikely hero.
By Michael Smith
Regal Village Square Theater