imitation_game_3Year: 2014
Director: Morten Tyldum
Writer(s): Andrew Hodges, Graham Moore
Region of Origin: UK, US
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13
35mm, Color, 114 mins

Synopsis: English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, helps crack the Enigma code during World War II. (Source)

What would it be like to have your greatest achievements or even your true self, for that matter never see the light of day? That’s the tragic premise behind The Imitation Game, which takes the life story of British mathematician, pioneering computer scientist, WW2 code breaker and closet homosexual Alan Turing to heartbreaking heights. Framed within a tense, beat-the-clock spy thriller, director Morten Tyldum paints the picture of a true genius fighting two wars, one for his country, and one to suppress his true nature from the public. What’s striking about the film is how timely it is now, more than ever, and Benedict Cumberbatch is utterly dazzling. Though the film glosses over Turing’s terrible end (convicted for indecency and driven to suicide by the very country he helped save), Tyldum’s created a slick nail-biter with brains and stirring emotion.

The story begins with a break-in of Alan Turing’s house in the 50s. Something doesn’t seem right to the officers at the scene, who deem that Turing has something he’s hiding. Thanks to a shadowy past, he’s picked up on suspicions and reluctantly shares his story. From there, film goes through Turing’s life, from his time as a top secret WW2 codebreaker at Bletchley Park (going on to build a revolutionary machine that would help win the war), his teenage boarding school years, and then finally his post-war unravelling, including a criminal conviction for his sexual orientation at a time when it was considered a crime. Throughout the ups and downs, the story allows us to see the brilliant man from different angles, allowing us to make our own conclusions about the enigmas of his life.

By focusing on both Turing’s outer and inner wars, Tyldum creates with satisfying dualities for both his themes and characters. Taking some liberties with the facts, the film presents a tight plot with clever thematic alliteration and one central and seminal portrait of a true genius who will stop at nothing to push his intellect to its limits. This is a fully empathetic character who is multi-faceted, driven and impossible to ignore. As he navigates around the top secret, code-breaking Enigma project for the British Allied forces, Tyldum studies the effects that secrets big and small can have on each person and the way they deal with them. As the film progresses, the personal and professional stakes become inextricable on all those involved, leading to a ticking time bomb of deception and intrigue on all fronts. Of course, the film is not all about deceit, but about the solidarity to be found amongst Turing and his team of geniuses. The bond they form in the face of their struggle is one that is tested, true and inspiring. Unlike most thrillers, the action here is internal, and the sparks fly thanks to the excellent character dynamics and a script that slowly tightens the noose.

imitation_game_1If there’s one reason the film works however, it’s because of the incredible chemistry and relationship between the cast and the characters they play. Benedict Cumberbatch as the film’s conflicted antihero is absolutely astounding. From his calculated mannerisms, to his slow, eventual breakdown, he’s a true sight to behold. Cumberbatch is no stranger to slightly egomaniacal geniuses (hello Sherlock), but he plays Turing with a true empathetic center, formed by the judgmental world he lives in and forced to in many ways fend for himself. The work his character devotes his life to acts almost as a retreat to the only thing he feels like he can control and understand, and Cumberbatch rises to make what could’ve been a one-dimensional character into someone with more than he could ever express. The other standout here is Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, fellow stalwart to Turing. They have an incredibly beautiful relationship that isn’t a shallow romance, but one of two outsiders who genuinely connect and care for each other as human beings period. Knightley gets to sink her teeth into a smart, strong woman whose story mirrors Turing’s in more ways than one, and she has a charm and confidence that is irresistible. She holds her own in a male dominated film with ease. The rest of the cast is littered with strong backing performers from Rory Kinnear, Mark Strong, Charles Dance and one of my faves, Matthew Goode.

Many consider Turing the father of artificial intelligence, with his ideas which eventually lead to the modern day computer, among other things. The terrible part of his story is that such a pioneer so instrumental to human progress could be instantly discarded the way he was (he was only officially pardoned in 2013). That leads to the only real flaw in the film, which tries a bit to hard to mask how much he was wronged by a world that couldn’t understand him. Still, The Imitation Game works on a number of levels, and is a poignant anthem for the underdog in all of us.

Crome Rating: 4/5