Movie Review: The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game (2014)
114 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Morten Tyldum
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode

imitation-game-poster

Grade: B+

“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”

I’m not sure if the name Alan Turing means anything to most people, but after watching this movie you’ll understand the universal impact he has on our everyday life. In short, Turing was a brilliant mathematician who was faced with what everyone saw as an impossible task: to crack the Nazi Enigma code during the Second World War.

Though this is a period piece set during the war, it’s mainly a character-study of Turing and that’s one reason why The Imitation Game is so good. Turing is one of the more fascinating people to hit the big screen in many years and the way he’s portrayed allows us to divulge into his complicated life. First and foremost, Turing lands somewhere on the autism spectrum. He’s anti-social and doesn’t understand people like others do. It’s easy to laugh at early moments when we’re introduced to Turing (like how he cannot comprehend he’s being asked out to lunch when his colleagues say “We’re going to get some lunch.”), but we learn more about him as the film goes on. Also with the help of the only female to be apart of the Bletchley Park group, Joan Clarke, Turing finds out there are benefits to being nice.

The Imitation Game tells three parts of Turing’s life: when he was a young schoolboy, when he served on the secret mission during the war, and his final years in the 1950s before his tragic death. All three parts had a significant impact on the film, but cracking the code was the juiciest plot. It always astonishes me how these based on a true story films can still be so suspenseful when you already know the outcome, but The Imitation Game was able to make you feel the time crunch and the importance of the work this group was doing. Will they be able to crack the Nazi Enigma code to figure out what the intercepted messages mean to win the war? It doesn’t help that their supervisor is fully against Turing’s project as he spends about 100,000 pounds to create a massive machine that doesn’t seem to work.

Benedict Cumberbatch gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Alan Turing, making the character jump off the screen from a tame (yet Oscar bait) screenplay. Keira Knightley is also memorable, though part of that is due to how she’s the only relevant female in the whole film. There is obviously a lot more to do with Turing’s life, specifically the issues he had to deal with because he was homosexual, which was illegal, but the screenplay decided to keep most of its focus on cracking the code. Because of this, the ending feels a bit out of left field, bringing the most emotional scenes years after the fact, but it’s still effective enough.

There’s no doubt that Turing’s accomplishments are incredible, and it’s shown here in The Imitation Game. But it’s difficult to view this film without thinking, “Here’s a movie specifically motivated to win an Oscar.” It’s a bit too polished and quite predictable in its story-telling. It’s still a fine film and a good movie experience, but it’s lacking the incentive to become something even more.

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