The Imitation Game (2014) / Drama-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking
Running Time: 114 min.
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard
Director: Morten Tyldum
Screenplay: Graham Moore (based on the book, "Alan Turing: The Enigma" by Andrew Hodges)
Review published January 1, 2015
British cryptanalyst Alan Turing (Cumberbatch, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies) is the subject of this World War II-based dramatic thriller, who is now credited as a most important man that contributed in cracking the supposedly indecipherable Nazi Enigma code -- the encrypted machine-based form of messaging the Germans used to communicate their daily plans -- a move which is credited as one of the most important achievements in turning the war around in the favor of the Allies. Turing had been assembled with other top British minds in order to crack the Enigma machine they managed to acquire. While his cohorts spent their days doing what they could to solve the codes impossibly by hand, he set about creating a machine to try to do the calculations on its own
In addition to the very loose dramatization of Turing and company's Enigma achievements, The Imitation Game also deals in a smaller part with Turing's punishment for being a homosexual (illegal in England at the time), with flashbacks to his childhood in which he fosters both his interest in cryptography as well as his first inklings of innocent attraction to another young boy in his class. The scenes that take place in the 1950s are crafted as a police investigation stemming from a burglary of Turing's home that he wants the police to not snoop into (he was robbed by a male lover), and the subsequent prying of a busybody policeman who is determined to unearth just what Turing is hiding, thinking he might be a communist.
Because the events of Turing's contributions behind the scenes of the war were classified, no one would know for about 50 years that he was a hero, and instead, his extracurricular activities were seen as something of great shame. Chemically castrated to avoid jail time, Turing would save millions of lives by shortening the greatest war the world has ever known, but his own would be lost in the process.
The rest is mostly filmmaking full of artistic liberties, including the fact that Turing didn't really invent the machine he would dub "Christopher" (the name is another dramatic conceit, to tie in his passion for computers with his first crush), but merely streamlined an existing design for this specific purpose, and that he had much more collaboration that was critical to it working. Many of Turing's character quirks (separating peas from carrots, and his dislike for sandwiches) are inventions for the film, and pretty much all of the personalities of the supporting characters, including the nonexistent detective out to unearth Turing's great secret, are embellished to the point where they might be considered purely fictional. For a film about a man who is hyper-focused on crafting his ultimate invention, the amount of fabrication involved in telling his story is perhaps even more inventive.
Nevertheless, taking into account that fact is ensconced under a great deal of fiction, this is still a very good film. The Imitation Game benefits from good thespians at the forefront, though their characters beyond Turing aren't clearly defined save for what's necessary for the story. An idiosyncratic-infused Cumberbatch is solid as you'd expect in all of his many conflicted emotions that bubble under but never seem to come to the surface, and Knightley (Laggies) fetching and engaging as his would-be female love interest, even if her obvious wig is a bit of a distraction at times. The supporting ensemble is fantastic, even in very small roles.
The Imitation Game is about two secrets, one that was deems impossible to crack, and whose efforts would give rise to devices that everyone reading this review benefits from The other secret was an easy one to glean, of that same man that was hurting no one, and whose life would end up gone and forgotten, until recent years when his actions would make him a posthumous hero. The Imitation Game is about a wrong that was righted - a source of national pride, and one whose rights that were wronged - a source of national shame.
©2014 Vince Leo