The Imitation Game takes the larger than life story of Alan Turing and whittles it down to a digestible two hours in which neither the magic of the mathematician’s mind, nor the depth of his long-tortured heart are lost.

‘The Imitation Game’ Review

In 1939, Alan Turing, then aged 27, with an excess of hubris and a lack of charm, disarms a British commander with his inexplicable knowledge of the mission for which they’re searching for cryptologists and code breakers; he knows what Enigma is. And, he knows he has the mathematical brain with which to solve what has heretofore been regarded as unbreakable. Instead of merely scratching out possible codified series like the rest, Turing takes to creating a machine more capable than himself – one that is imbued with human knowledge, but computes faster and more efficiently.

The Imitation Game stars the beloved Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, a genius hindered by social ineptness and made lonely by society’s stance on homosexuality. It’s set against the backdrop of World War II.  The tortured and complicated hero, the grotesquely romantic setting, the actor with a devoted fan base (Cumberbitches), and the incredible true-life story make The Imitation Game an obvious Weinstein Company awards season biopic; it very clearly wants an Oscar. But, it’s hard to begrudge a film for that when the acting, the material, and the execution are so deserving of consideration.

“Sometimes it’s the people that no one imagines anything of that do the things no one can imagine,” says Turing’s boarding school friend Christopher to him in a moment of quiet desperation. Christopher believes in Turing, in his mind. Christopher’s confidence in Turing remained a driving force throughout his career, long after Christopher died of Tuberculosis during a school break before Turing could tell him that he loved him. Turing carried his torch for his first love in his math, even naming his machine after him.

From start to finish, The Imitation Game propels forward on this notion of love – Turing for Christopher, the young man and the machine. There’s also the underlying love for country that serves to fuel Turing and his team, which includes Keira Knightley’s Joan Clarke – a character that could have benefitted from further realization. Despite her limited screen time, Knightley is given a memorable opportunity to bring Joan alive – and to prove her mettle in the part – in one riveting scene in which Joan calls Turing out on his many social offenses.

Although the dearth of Knightley is a definite shortcoming, there is much to be praised about The Imitation Game, including its cinematography. There is something utterly picturesque and quaint about director Morten Tyldum’s England. The color palette ranges from soft jades and lilacs, rusty oranges and golden yellows. It provides a mood for life outside of the war, until the war comes home to England. The same could be said for the questionable CGI in the war scenes.

Tyldum wasn’t making a movie about the violence in the trenches of World War II and little money is spent there, as he used cheap special effects and black and white stock footage for the limited amount of context. It seems conceivable that Tyldum was angling to show the imaginations of the cryptographers working, and rough video reels that could’ve been seen of the war at the time. For figurative soldiers like Turing, the center of their reality was the copper, wire and steel of Christopher, and their battlefield was more often than not their own minds.

Cumberbatch delivered an Oscar-worthy performance in The Imitation Game, even if the movie might fall short of extraordinary. From start to finish, he’s contained within the character of a person nearly as enigmatic as the code he sought to crack, his tortured soul resting below the surface until the movie’s final moments allude to his tragic end. For Cumberbatch’s performance alone, The Imitation Game is a must-see.

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