Review: “The Imitation Game” Easily One Of The Best Movies Of The Year
Title: The Imitation Game
Director: Morten Tyldum
Screenwriter: Andrew Hodges (book “Alan Turing: The Enigma”) and Graham Moore (screenplay)
Principal Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, and Allen Leech
When I first heard about The Imitation Game I wasn’t that confident that it was going to be that good. I’m not the biggest fan of Benedict Cumberbatch and, when I saw the screening, I was still silently resenting him for taking the role of Stephen Strange in the Doctor Strange movie. I’ve, thus far, not been impressed with his role outside of the BBC Sherlock series, so I thought this would be another disposable role for what I considered a one trick pony with a unique voice. On top of that The Imitation Game is a World War II biopic with a Christmas Day release date which just screamed Oscar bait. However, several people I respect told me that they thought it was fantastic and suddenly I was presented with the opposite problem; would this movie live up to the hype?
The Imitation Game not only met my expectations, but exceeded them beautifully, and convinced me that Benedict Cumberbatch is a force to be reckoned with when he has the right part.
The story follows the life of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch). Alan was a brilliant codebreaker and mathematician in the second world war. The British allies couldn’t decode the German codes because the Germans were using a machine called the Enigma, and the allies were losing the war. They were running out of time, so Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) decided to enlist some of the best minds he could find to try and decode the messages. They included Alan Turing, Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), John Cairncross (Allen Leech), and Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard). Alan, however, believed that he could build a machine that could solve Enigma and any other problems. He eventually enlists the help of Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) to help him, but time is of the essence and people are getting impatient.
The Imitation Game is probably going to end up in my top ten movies of the year. I absolutely loved it. I’m not usually someone who likes historical movies, and even less biopics, but this one was fascinating to me and I have a feeling that had a lot to do with Cumberbatch’s performance. One of the first things I said to someone once the movie was over was that I’m feeling a little better about Marvel’s casting choice because now I know he can act. There were so many subtle things happening beneath the surface as you watched Alan struggle with not only his machine but with his own identity as a gay man living in an era when that was illegal. Cumberbatch makes the struggle a physical one as Alan sometimes struggles to even form coherent sentences. It’s a fascinating performance.
The supporting cast does a pretty good job of backing Cumberbatch up as well. I have a hard time looking at Matthew Goode now without thinking of his character from the movie Stoker, which is excellent and you should seek it out, but I do love seeing him in movies. Knightley also does a good job of portraying the struggles that she had which was a woman working in a man’s world. The movie is very much about the struggle of identity and how that affects the person and everyone around you.
This is one of the first major US releases for Norwegian director Morten Tyldum. The Imitation Game presents a different view of the war that isn’t often seen, which is everything that was happening in the background. Many war movies focus on battles and soldiers, but this focus on academics and their place in a war is very interesting. I have to give Tyldum a lot of credit for taking this angle and running with it. It was refreshing since so many movies that are trying to find Oscar gold often focus on World War III and it has become an era that I’ve grown tired of. However, this year has presented some different viewpoints on such an important era. The movie makes sure that the viewer is aware that all of the work the group does goes away once midnight hits with a shrill alarm. It’s effective and helps keep the movie flowing because that’s what the characters must do as well.
Yet, despite how grim the situation was all around, The Imitation Game is also startlingly funny. Perhaps it was because anything would be considered funny after watching Unbroken the night before, but I genuinely laughed quite a few times. Most of these moments come from great awkward dialogue by Turing as he tries to interact with people he doesn’t quite understand. This is also one of the first big screenplays for Graham Moore, and he does a great job of crafting likable and humanizing dialogue for a man that was so far above everyone around him. Between the script, the performances, and the direction the underlying tone of how tragic all of this was going to be in the end never leaves the film. The movie skips around in Turing’s life from when he was a child at boarding school, to his time in the Enigma program, to the “present” where he is being interviewed by the police. It keeps everything interesting and the movie is just paced so well that there was never a dull moment.
The Imitation Game is a surprisingly funny and is more than a little heartbreaking look at the life of a man whose work shaved as much as two years off of World War II, and saved countless lives. The movie tells the story of the man who was, like the code he was trying to break, an enigma for so long. This is one of the best movies of the year and absolutely worth your time.