The Imitation Game (2014) Film Review from the 58th Annual BFI London Film Festival, a movie directed by Morten Tyldum, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Allen Leech, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, Matthew Beard, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Goodman Hill, James Northcote, Victoria Wicks, Lee Asquith-Coe, and Ancuta Brehban.
The Imitation Game kicked off the London Film Festival this year and was/is largely backed to be a front runner for the Oscars. The film tells the story of Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), the British cryptologist whose work during World War 2 played a pivotal role in aiding allied efforts. The film delves deep into his life, exposing, to those unaware, the darkest points of his existence, and the secrets he kept during 1940’s England. Turing’s life and his genius played an important part in the modern world and it is only fitting that his story be given the respect that it deserves. I am certain, that is what director Morten Tyldum intended to do with his latest project.
Boasting an all-star cast, The Imitation Game transitions from different periods in Turing’s life and shows the impact of one man and his genius. Cumberbatch, no stranger to playing an odd-ball genius, uses his full range to show the complexity of Turing’s tortured soul.
The film starts off with a burglary at Turing’s Manchester home. The year is 1951, the investigating officer Knox, played by Rory Kinnear, comes to suspect something is awry and believes Turing may be a spy (apparently, his WW2 exploits hadn’t earned him any trust). Though, Turing’s secret is far from what most would have expected. For you see, Turing was gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal. Turing was also socially awkward and battling a host of other anxieties that would probably label him as suffering from Aspergers Syndrome. However, this was a different time and back then he was just considered odd.
The film transitions from 1951, back to Turing’s days at Bletchley Park, where he carried out his work on the Enigma device, and then moves to his school days as a youth. The use of these particular time frames was instrumental in providing the viewer with a back-story to the many eccentricities of Turing’s character and also in helping them understand why he behaves the way he does.
The film isn’t a comedy, by any means, but there are several scenes that are likely to excite a chuckle. Cumberbatch’s Turing is an egomaniacal know it all, who makes that clear to everyone he meets. Even in his interview for the Government Communications Headquarters at Bletchley Park, Turing uses the opportunity to show his brilliance. He answers each question put to him by Commander Deniston (Charles Dance) with a snarky tone and even admits to not being able to speak German. He does, however, impress the commander enough to get the job. With Turing aptly surmising that the government needs him to be there more than he does.
His relationship with Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) is another interesting part of the Turing puzzle. As I said before, this isn’t a comedy; it is by its own intent an historical bio-pic. Latter parts of the film explore the strange friendship between Clarke and Turing, with Knightley putting in a solid performance in her supporting role. The chemistry between the two is fantastic, yet there are indications even early on that Clarke may not be the kind of person who ‘interests’ Turing.
Many important aspects of Turing’s life are either ignored or just briefly mentioned in the end. Things like: his conviction for gross indecency in 1952, and the fact that he committed suicide soon afterward due to the persecution and loneliness he felt.
Turing didn’t live a happy life. He was bullied as a child, considered odd by his peers, and looked upon in disgust when people discovered he was a homosexual. The film uses these real events to show just how vulnerable he really was.
Turing was brilliant and a visionary. Many people cite him as the father of modern computing. This film attempts to show the darker side of the man many people owe so much to but know so little about. It gathers the courage to tell the story of a man who saved millions of lives and then had to accept the fate he was dealt.
The Imitation Game was a fantastic watch and definitely worth the time.