The Oscar/BAFTA season is gearing up with a lot of independent and studio dramas gracing the silver screen over the next few months. Despite my unabashed crush on Benedict Cumberbatch, I did want to see The Imitation Game and see what all the critics were talking about.
Released by The Weinstein Co. in one of the most expensive bids for a screenplay at the European Film Market for $7 million, The Imitation Game is an example of how a low budget (low by Hollywood standards at $15 million) can deliver a highly cerebral WWII drama. Based on the biography of Alan Turing, a mathematician genius who was enlisted to break the German Nazi code, Enigma, this story follows Turing through childhood and the trials and prejudices he faced during the war.
Told in a broken series of flash-forwards, flash-backs, and the 1940s present, we learn the history of Turing in sections that rely on the audience’s memory to understand some of the nuances and clever lines. It turns the film into a “crossword puzzle” itself. But it’s not difficult to pay close attention since one of the first lines in the film tells you so.
Are you paying attention?
We begin with Turing in a job interview of sorts with Commander Denniston played by Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) and giving himself the job of confidential code breaker by being a humble yet ego-maniacal jerk. He knows Britain needs him and is not afraid to say it. Turing then joins a team of men to crack the code only to face failure after failure by the stroke of midnight when the Nazis change the code and start a new day of attacks.
It’s not until Turing enlists the help of the public that Joan Clarke played by a shy and waif-like Kiera Knightly that Turing starts to think outside the box. It’s as if Joan motivates him to work in secrecy from the rest of his team therefore looking at things from a different angle. I mean, if he is going to break the rules with a woman, why stop there?
The other big element this film focuses on is Turing’s homosexuality. I personally felt at the end of this film that both angles of the story had excellent subjects, but neither was given the time it needed or deserved. The war element took too much from the lifestyle story and visa versa. I’m not saying the homosexuality needed to be removed completely, but for a film that was so focused on a secret that Britain held on to for over 50 years, I would have liked to have seen more about that. Or, in reverse, focus a little more on the persecution Turing could have and did face making both secrets equally dangerous and pending.
Cumberbatch delivers an incredibly impactful performance in Turing. He is so reserved and awkward in the role that when he has an outburst of emotion, it reaches through the screen. I do find it interesting though that I don’t think I’ve seen a single film of Cumberbatch’s (besides The Hobbit and Sherlock) where I haven’t seen him shed a tear.
What caught my attention at the end of the film was the fine print on the screen giving the history summary. I was astonished that this information has only just recently been released to the public. Without giving away spoilers, I’m shocked that this secret remained a secret and was so successful. It really made me wonder how many other government secrets are being held only to be released when the time is right.
The Imitation Game is an excellent and almost unbelievable story that could have benefited from a little more focus and maybe a little more money to make the computer graphics and war imagery more believable. The almost painting backdrop looking footage of the war threw me out of the film each time it graced the screen. I do wish that had more quality but not at the expense of the film’s story and performances.
4 out of 5 stars