On the surface, The Imitation Game might seem like your typical British biopic, but it’s much deeper than that. Mathematician Alan Turing was a fascinating man, and he is brought to life here brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch. There’s never a dull moment in The Imitation Game, and director Morten Tyldum keeps you on your toes as he flashes forward and back in Turing’s life. Unlike another British biopic this Oscar season, The Imitation Game is just the right amount of ambitious and involving, propelled by fantastic performances and a bolstering score.
The Imitation Game, adapted from Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, shows us the life of Turing as he was recruited to help crack the Nazi code during World War II. He helps lead a team of code-breakers at Bletchley Park and their goal is to break the Enigma, the Nazi encoding device, to intercept messages and win the war. It’s a really interesting true story, and it is estimated that Turing helped reduce the War by at least two years. We see a side of the war that we rarely see in The Imitation Game. Unlike Fury or Unbroken, two other WWII prestige pics this year, Imitation Game gives us the glimpse at the men and women behind the scenes.
Turing himself, though, had plenty of secrets. He doesn’t play well with others, leading to plenty of conflict as Turing is convinced that his computer “Christopher” will crack the code. Also, Alan was a homosexual, which at the time was illegal in Britain. The film plays subtly with this theme, never bringing it to the forefront, but keeping it in the back of our minds the entire time. In flash-forwards, we see Turing on trial for his crime, and some truly devastating scenes follow. On top of that, one of the codebreakers is a mole, and some thrilling scenes result from this. It’s a tragic tale, an important one, and Game deals with important themes throughout, as Alan himself was an ‘enigma’ of sorts. But Game is never bogged down by its heavy-dealing themes. Instead everything moves along at a smooth pace.
We also meet Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), and through her the film deals with a duality as both her and Turing are outsiders during this time. They strike up a friendship that is truly something to behold on screen, and surprisingly Knightley has actual chemistry with Cumberbatch. Speaking of, Cumberbatch gives the performance of his career in The Imitation Game. I’ve never been a big Cumberbatch fan, but I’ve never not liked him, however this movie changed my mind. He brings all of Turing’s complexities to the stage, giving us a calculated, awkward, but still likable character that we root for. Some might say Imitation Game is an underdog story, and in some aspects it definitely is, but it’s more about recognizing that Turing, like everyone else, is only human. A quote repeated three too many times in the film paints this well.
Couple this with a score from my favorite composer, Alexandre Desplat, and The Imitation Game is the whole shebang. A complex, well-told story with a tight script from screenwriter Graham Moore and a flat-out terrific performance from Benedict Cumberbatch has Oscars written all over it. But awards aside, The Imitation Game deserves to be seen because it’s an important film, one about a great man whose legacy will be remembered for ages.