“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.
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 Slave, The 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.
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.
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