The Imitation Game is a beautiful film, beautifully acted. Director Morten Tyldum’s first English-language film is a tour de force of acting prowess, wrapped in a powerful story. It’s Oscar bait for sure, but deservedly so.
Based on a true story, Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, a mathematician hired by the British government to crack the code behind the Nazi Enigma Machine, a machine which was being used to transmit correspondence between Nazi forces during World War II. With Turing, Cumberbatch finds himself playing the misunderstood, enigmatic genius not for the first time in his career, but certainly with the most nuance and subtlety we have seen from him to date. For his performance he has rightly been earning his plaudits, but the rest of the cast of characters are also brilliantly realised, none more so than Keira Knightley’s Joan Clarke, friend and apparant love interest to Turing.
But alas, Turing’s love lies with childhood friend Christopher (Jack Bannon), a love which he carries with him throughout his life, naming the machine he builds to crack the Enigma code after his beloved friend. Whilst never short on confidence in his own ability, at first his fellow class mates and then secondly his colleagues are taken aback my his brashness. To add to his troubles, doubts over his sexuality threaten to tear all credibility from him in a world governed by archaic law.
The moments in which Turing’s sexuality is explored pack the most emotional punch, whether it be through his relationship with Joan, or through that with Christopher. These are the two people in Turing’s life that understood him most fully, and even they did not know the depths of his loneliness. In many ways his character is much like the Enigma Machine, with both hiding truths whilst being near on impossible to read.
The interplay between Turing and his colleagues meanwhile brings levity to what otherwise could have been a rather dark affair, both when butting heads and when working together. Charles Dance also makes an appearance drawing on his inner Tywin Lannister with his (unsuccessful) attempts to take Turing down a notch being a highlight.
The Imitation Game is a compelling story, richly detailed, succinctly told and expertly put together. The greatest tragedy of all is the way in which Turing was treated. Not only was he misunderstood for his genius, but also judged cruelly due to his sexuality. In a world being torn apart war and persecution, the oppressed became the oppressors. It is indeed a crazy world we live in.
A worthy contender for the upcoming Academy Awards. Gripping, moving, The Imitation Game features a remarkable performance from Cumberbatch, whilst serving as a stark reminder of the frailties and shortcomings of human kind.
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