“The Imitation Game” (2014): Oscar is No Enigma…

It doesn’t exactly strike the perfect balance between Alan Turing’s revolutionary genius and personal turmoil, but The Imitation Game is a beacon of modern relevance and very memorably depicts one of the most brilliant, determined, and courageous minds of the last century. Carrying a hefty moral weight and historical significance, it might be too easy to dismiss the theatrical, albeit relatively cliche moments of Morten Tyldum’s latest, however there’s no denying thoroughly passionate cinema when it’s executed with this much heart, pain, and reverence.

The story of Alan Turing is one of much complexity, whether discussing his immeasurable contributions to the birth of computer science or his struggles to conceal his homosexuality, illegal in the UK at the time. The Imitation Game focuses, for the majority, on Turing’s crucial role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. His electro-mechanical machine, an early model “Turing Machine,” instantly deciphered intercepted messages sent by the Nazis using their “Enigma machine.” Preventing numerous ambushes, limiting casualties, and aiding the allies to victory in several key battles.

Turing (Cumberbatch), with the assistance of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, assembled a team of scholars, mathematicians, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers to work at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, hoping to break Nazi Germany’s Enigma Code. During that time, Turing proposed to co-worker Joan Clarke (Knightley), a close friend and rival mind, in order to keep their working relationship thriving. After the war, Turing was prosecuted for gross indecency and pled guilty, despite feeling no remorse, opting for hormonal treatment instead of prison time.

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Based on “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges, The Imitation Game, doesn’t share much with the cryptic nature of Turing’s hobby-turned-indispensable asset. The film itself isn’t difficult to crack, no misdirection, twists, or turns…nor should you’ve expected that to be the case. On the surface, The Imitation Game is a thoroughly well-rounded, albeit formulaic biopic. Arguably, what’s most valuable about this retelling of Alan Turing’s life-story isn’t something that’s on the screen or universally shared. It’s something prone to environment, prejudice, and experience, needing to be invested in and excavated by the individual.

Rarely is a films ending so critical to its effect as a whole as The Imitation Game’s final sequences are. Following akin to last year’s TIFF People’s Choice Award and eventual Academy Award Best Picture winner 12 Years a SlaveThe Imitation Game is fueled by a seemingly ancient, barbaric socio-political agenda that might not be as currently “out-of-date” as we may think. Granted, it takes some time for Turing’s repressed homosexuality to come full circle and take affect, but the end result is taut, sympathetic film making. A much-needed payoff considering Tyldum occasionally plays it too safe.

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The deep, gritty tone of Turing’s opening monologue is all Benedict Cumberbatch needs to set his hooks in you, his voice, pronged like a reverse trident, nestles under your skin and doesn’t pry loose. Cumberbatch, who’s never tackled a role consisting of such vast mental and emotional requirements, quite handily enters his name into the 2015 Oscar race. The ease of Benedict’s conviction when portraying Turing in such a respectful, sporadically comedic manner is baffling. Especially when considering that he, Turing, was a loner, genius, and closet homosexual.

Being a literal and figurative pawn is no easy task, your presence needs to be justified but instantly forgettable. Keira Knightley gives a marvelously subtle, yet deceptively significant performance as Turing’s makeshift therapist. Like the last piece of a puzzle, she carries an importance, but can’t help but be an afterthought.

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Jumping back and forth between past, present, and future, The Imitation Game too often strikes perfection for its more static moments to harm the final product. With thoroughly captivating historical material and a top-notch performance from Benedict Cumberbatch, Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game is sure to be a heavyweight come award season.

The Good: Benedict Cumberbatch at the top of his game (no pun intended).
The Bad: The occasional blip in scene-splicing
The Ugly: N/A

Overall: 9.0/10

Written By Joseph Falcone


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  • Brittani

    Great review! I think if this one comes to a theater near me, I’ll check it out. I love Knightley and Cumberbatch.

  • Tom

    Fantastic stuff Joseph. Can’t wait to get my hands (or eyes) on this.

  • Nadeshiko

    Brilliant review. How was Desplat’s score?

    Also,

    “…who’s never tackled a role consisting of such vast mental and emotional requirements,…”

    You need to see Parade’s End. It’s a very beautiful and affecting mini-series w/ only 5 episodes. Playing a smart traditionalist Tory with a stiff upper lip and a very sensitive soul, this is Cumberbatch’s masterclass on acting his emotions through his eyes.

  • SidekickReviews

    I’ve heard some good buzz about this movie and on Cumberbatch’s Oscar worthy performance, nice to read a full review about it. Excellent post. 🙂

  • Writer Loves Movies

    Wonderful review Joseph. I’ve been anticipating this one for a while now and you’re review makes me even more eager to see it. Fantastic to hear Cumberbatch has entered his name into the Oscars race.

  • Michael Boyd

    Wow, sounds really good. I was worried it might be A Beautiful Mind style film but this sounds different. Great review

  • Joseph

    Thanks, Michael. And what’s wrong with ‘A Beautiful Mind?’ Kidding, to each their own. I don’t know about it being similar, but I think it best if you decide that for yourself. ‘The Imitation Game’ is a relatively predictable biopic, but everything about it is so well executed and performed, it’s hard to get frustrated over the little stuff. Thanks again!

  • Joseph

    Thank you very much. I was very much anticipating this one as well, glad I got it out of the way so my eagerness didn’t overwhelm me. I’d be surprised if Cumberbatch didn’t at least earn a nomination.

  • Joseph

    Thanks a ton. I can assure you the buzz surrounding this film is well-deserved.

  • Joseph

    Thank you, as always Tom! Definitely one to get your whole body excited for!

  • Joseph

    Thanks Brittani! Who doesn’t love Benedict? Give it a watch, without question.

  • Joseph

    Thank you! Absolutely adore Desplat! As the film progressed, the more prominent Desplat’s compositions became. I’d need to see the film again, as the raw power of Cumberbatch’s acting really drew me away from the other cinematic elements, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Desplat garnered another Oscar nom for his score here.

    I’ve seen ‘Parade’s End,’ a few times actually, glad you enjoy it so passionately. Cumberbatch is definitely one of the more redeeming qualities in a show that too often, for me anyway, dragged its feet.

  • Chris

    Yes! So looking forward to this one and good to see it delivers. This pleases me! Top review mate.

  • Joseph

    Thanks Chris! I can assure you it delivers, wholeheartedly. Thrilled you’re as excited for this flick as I was!

  • Elisabetta Duò

    I can’t wait for the movie, i’ve read the previous version of the script and i find it very interesting. I’m also a huge Cumberbatch fan, his performance as the creature in Frankenstein ( the national theatre production directed by Danny Boyle) was really impressive. He was very good a playing dr. Frankenstein as well but as the Creature he was fantastic (he and j.lee miller alternated roles). Anyway, detailed review, the only mistake is turing never married joan clarke, they were just engaged for a short period.

  • Joseph

    I know, right? How great was Cumberbatch in Boyle’s ‘Frankenstein?’ You are indeed correct, they never wed, editing immediately. Thanks for reading!

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  • Zoë

    Argh! This looks like something that is sure to be awesome, plus BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH. I mean really, as if I needed more to sell me on looking into this! Great work as always Joseph!