Kyle J. Steenblik

The Imitation Game is striking and penetrating

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5 stars out of 5The Imitation Game
Directed by: Morten Tyldum
imitationgameWritten by: Graham Moore
Based on: Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, Rory Kinnear
Running time: 114 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking

The Imitation Game is a film everyone should see; I feel it is that important, it is also that good.  It is uncommon to come across a film that combines historical events with lively and dynamic performances and a genuinely engaging story.  That is exactly that The Imitation Game gives us, a film that is very likely to win accolades, awards, and spots on the top films of 2014 lists.  Now that I have said that, I have to justify that to you somehow, who have at this point not seen the movie.  The only way I can think to do that is to start with explaining about this movie.

The Imitation Game is the story of what Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) did during World War II, and what was done to him and the years after.  The film begins in 1952, when Alan Turing’s house was burglarized, this lead to Detective Robert Nock (Rory Kinnear), to become suspicious and begin to investigate Turing, suspecting he may be involved with the Soviets, due to the secretive nature in which he treated the equipment and experiments in his home.  The investigation eventually led to the discovery of Turing’s homosexual relationships, which were illegal at that time in the United Kingdom.

After his arrest and during his interrogation Turing begins to tell Robert Nock his story.  Around 1938 Turing was hired, however reluctantly, by Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance) to work on cracking the Nazi Enigma Machine.  Encouraged by MI6 Major General Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong)and with the help of Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), and a team of scholars, mathematicians, linguists, chess champions; Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), John Cairncross (Allen Leech), Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard), Jack Good (James Northcote), Turing was able to create a machine capable of decrypting 3000 Nazi communications a day.  Turing’s story, punctuated with his time at school, and the first boy he ever loved, and his best friend, Christopher, ends in the interrogation room where it began.

The first punctuation of this film is the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch.  Cumberbatch is a fantastically talented actor, and he has delivered an impressive array of rousing and entertaining roles.  This role, this performance, I believe to be his finest, his most sincere and most powerful.  It is difficult to make an uncharismatic character, such as Turing, engaging and relatable.  By all accounts, Alan Turing was socially inept, to put it bluntly, this caused him problems forming relationships easily.  The way Cumberbatch plays this is, for lack of a better way to describe it, heartbreakingly endearing.  There was a methodical care in Cumberbatche’s portrayal that drew praise from Turing’s surviving relatives.  In a BBC Radio interview, James Turing, Alan’s great-nephew, said Cumberbatch “knows things that I never knew before.  The amount of knowledge he has about Alan is amazing.”

The fact that the supporting cast was not overshadowed by Cumberbatch’s performance should be a testament to how well cast this film was.  Not only did each performer allow each of their co-stars to share the screen, they played off each other fantastically.  I would like to highlight Keira Knightley’s performance here as one of the best she has delivered since Pride & Prejudice, and I believe this performance is much better on her part.  She was interesting, engaging, and portrayed more depth of character than any of her past performances that I can recall.

I note must be shared about the historical accuracy of the events in this film.  Some of them are exaggerated, and some of the interactions were added to assist with moving the narrative forward.  The story portrayed took place over years; to translate that to the screen requires some creative writing.  Credit should be given to writer Graham Moore for his adaptation.  It is difficult to balance historical fact with entertainment; Moore found a brilliant balance in this film.  For those concerned, the additions and modifications do not change the nature of the story, and should not be thought to jeopardize the integrity of this film.

By the end of the film, I was sufficiently heartbroken, in spite of my familiarity with Alan Turing’s history.  For anyone unfamiliar with the story, and what happened to Alan Turing, or more specifically, what was done to him, I won’t spoil the end of the film.  If you are genuinely curious, and want to know before you see The Imitation Game we live in the age of fantastic Turing Machines, they have learned so much, and they would be happy to tell you what we did to Alan Turing.

The Imitation Game is my pick for best film of 2014, without question.  Its an important film, historically and morally.  It is a beautiful tribute to a man that saved and changed the world, and was repaid horrifically, and even now it shatters my heart to think about it.

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