A few weeks back, I wrote that The Theory of Everything was perhaps the most endearing British film to be released in recent years. I still stand by that statement, however if the term endearing applied to The Theory of Everything, then perhaps the term enthralling applies to its fellow British feature The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
World War II is raging and Nazi Germany has the Allied Powers, especially Great Britain by the short and curlies because of Enigma, a complex encryption device that codifies every German communication applied for military purposes. France, the United States and especially Great Britain have been attempting to crack Enigma for years, only to come up a step behind because every day, Germany alters the codes necessary to decrypt their own messages; the British military and MI6 are playing a game in which they have to constantly race around the clock to break the code and every day they don’t, the death toll rises.
In order to break the most complex code the world has ever seen, Naval Commander Denniston, played by Charles Dance, and MI6 operative Stewart Menzies, played by Mark Strong, reach out to genius mathematician Alan Turing of Kings College, Cumberbatch, and request that he collaborates with fellow cryptologists Hugh Alexander, played by Matthew Goode, Peter Hilton, played by Matthew Beard, Joan Clarke, played by Academy Award nominee Keira Knightley, and John Cairncross, played by Allen Leech, to decrypt Nazi messages at Bletchley Park.
The Imitation Game is essentially a story that chronicles how Turing constructs the machine that eventually decodes Enigma and how the team of code-breakers helped turn the tide of battle in the latter years of World War II and how their involvement had to be classified by MI6, while simultaneously the film peers into Turing’s personal life and background because shortly after the war, Turing was exposed as a homosexual, convicted of indecency and committed suicide a year into his sentence.
The Imitation Game is a riveting piece because it shed light onto a subject of World War II that is somewhat obscure from common knowledge. This is a movie for underdogs, outcasts, the misunderstood and the wall-flowers because the central character of Turing happens to be the ultimate underdog who accomplishes something extremely profound.
Director Morten Tyldem and screenwriter Graham Moore adapt Andrew Hodges’ book and concisely structures the film to accomplish two feats. The first is to demonstrate the impact that scientists and mathematicians can have during times of war; because of Turing and his team and the fact they did decrypt Enigma, it is estimated that the war was shortened by two years. The second was to get a glimpse as to whom Alan Turing was as a person and professionally and Benedict Cumberbatch was exemplary in this leading role.
Though the film is subtle in dealing with Turing’s sexual orientation, it definitely doesn’t shy away from how harsh society can be towards homosexuals in general or at that time and credit must go towards Tyldem and Moore for shaping such a socially conscious motion picture designed to inspire those who are different, those who are misfits and outcasts while possessing significant entertainment value for mainstream audiences. Particularly, Moore should be recognized for his adaptation that never stops connecting Turing’s past from his present, but does so in such that it is cunning and sharp; from the moment that the film begins Cumberbatch’s off-screen narration informs audiences that this movie will be an intelligent story and whoever is watching needs to pay attention and I think technique such as that is quite bold and it pays off handsomely.
The cast of the film all receive high marks across the board. Goode, Knightley, Dance, Strong, Rory Kinnear, Alex Lawther as young Alan Turing and Jack Bannon as Christopher Morcom, all give absolutely sturdy performances to give this film weight to add to the stellar performance of Cumberbatch.
Composer Alexandre Desplat also contributes to the film with another resonantly beautiful film score to give The Imitation Game a broader sense of dimension, William Goldenberg’s film editing is carried out with precision and the cinematography of Oscar Faura is quite grounded and stable enough for Tyldum to make his mark.
The Imitation Game is a film that plays on the familiarities of other notable motion pictures that tackle themes of injustice and inequality such as Milk or 12 Years a Slave and yet it could also be argued that it is the first true expertly crafted biopic to be released in years that actually spans from childhood to death.
The Imitation Game is an enthralling motion picture with great acting, a great lesson to learn and an overall great experience to witness. The Imitation Game deserves to be in the discussion as one of the best films of 2014 and should find itself in contention for several Oscars including Best Score, Best Adapted Screenplay, perhaps Best Actor and Best Director (both categories are going to be very crowded but it wouldn’t surprise me if both Cumberbatch and Tyldum were left out) and Best Picture.