Tells the story of Alan Turing, the mathematician who broke the Nazis’ Enigma Code.
Morten Tyldum, 2014
Socially awkward mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is interviewed by the police after being arrested for soliciting a man for sex. We flash back to when he applied for a job with British intelligence at Bletchley park in order to take a stab at breaking the Enigma Code. His love of machines leads Turing to believe that only another machine can decode the Enigma machine, and despite overwhelming opposition from his immediate superiors and co-worker, sets about building said machine. After a recruitment round using a crossword brings the brilliant Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) into the fold, he receives support from her both in creating his machine and endearing himself to his co-workers. In flashbacks, we see Turing falling in love with a boy called Christopher, who introduces him to codes and whose influence is far-reaching.
I bet you didn’t see this one coming: The Imitation Game is a surprisingly funny film. It’s about a deeply unfair, tragic subject, but it’s got a lot of warmth and humour that I wasn’t expecting. Turing was a difficult person (and, as portrayed here, almost certainly on the Autism spectrum), and the movie does a good job of making him a very sympathetic, interesting character. Benedict Cumberbatch is Acting all over the screen in this film, but it never crosses the line into caricature; his tics and eccentricities are consistent and carefully portrayed, and by the final reveal of what happened to Turing, it’s a real punch in the gut. He’s ably supported: Matthew Goode is great as Turing’s opposite, a highly social man who initially hates Turing’s coldness but eventually comes around; Mark Strong is an awesome manipulative spy; Charles Dance is mean; Keira Knightley is brilliant and piercingly insightful as Joan. Unfortunately she is the only female codebreaker in the movie, the other heroic women of Bletchley Park reduced to the roles of scribes and secretaries.
The film takes a few too many liberties with Alan Turing’s life and the circumstances of working at Bletchley, to the point that sometimes the movie seems too convenient. It also undersells Turing, who seems to have been even less concerned with the opinions of others than he’s presented as being here. Still, the movie looks good. The costumes are detailed and period-accurate, recreating the era convincingly. It’s also neatly put together with a tight run time, the story never lagging. In spite of a good performance from Alex Lawther as the young Turing and some heartstring-tugging moment, the flashbacks to Turing’s past sometimes break the film’s momentum, along with a few odd scenes that distract from the real story (ie. the crossword puzzle challenge, which takes us on a meandering tour through war torn London before finally returning to Turing a good five minutes later). These are pretty minor quibbles with an overall solid film – perhaps not one of the best of the year, but it was a scant year, and it’s not the worst movie up for an Oscar. (I know, high praise indeed!)
The Imitation Game on IMDb