Film review: The Imitation Game

These days Alan Turing may be a name familiar to most, but during his career this was not so for the British hero of the Second World War.

In fact Turing’s exceptional work is so recognised today it is the plot of one of this year’s biggest cinema releases.

The Imitation Game follows the life of the mathematician (Benedict Cumberbatch) as he and his fellow cryptographers try to break the unbreakable German Enigma code.

This feat would help the Allies to victory during World War II.

The film begins in 1950s’ Manchester as Turing is questioned by police about his suspicious past following a robbery at his home – some dubious equipment has been discovered during the investigation.

From there, viewers are taken back to 1939 and the outbreak of war as Turing convinces Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) to place him on a secret operation to break the code, proclaiming himself to be ‘the world’s greatest mathematician’.

After designing a machine capable of doing the job – and convincing Winston Churchill to supply the funding – the film picks up pace as Turing faces pressure from Denniston and his co-workers to prove that it will work.

The young and talented mathematician Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) throws another factor into the equation, offering a female love interest in the film and challenging the stereotype of women in the 1940s.

Together they work on breaking the code as the film makes its way to the well-known and awaited conclusion along with the revelation of Turing’s homosexuality, but there is the odd unexpected twist.

At two hours in length the film is well paced and features several flashbacks to Turing’s youth and his growing relationship and bond with a school friend.

Cumberbatch is his usual brilliant self in a film full of British talent with Knightley, Dance and MI6 agent Stewart Menzies, played by Mark Strong, all having prominent roles.

But Cumberbatch steals the show, as is to be expected, excelling in every scene no matter the situation and judging the mood and emotion to perfection.

At times he comes across as he might when playing his iconic Sherlock Holmes role – cocky, self-assured and almost always right.

But just as easily he appears in the next scene weak and vulnerable as he struggles to live with who he is and the secrets he is hiding.

There is subtle humour spread throughout the film especially early on, but also surprisingly during some of the more difficult and emotionally charged scenes.

The chemistry between Cumberbatch and Knightley’s characters is engaging and believable and perhaps the only criticism is the film perhaps over exaggerates certain events for the big screen.

The very last part of the film is spent following Turing through the struggle of a prosecution for homosexual acts – something which was illegal only as far back as 1952 – and his downturn into a shell of his former self.

The film ends in a crescendo of tragedy, Turing’s royal pardon in 2013 and his influence on society to this very day left to just lines of text – perhaps a somewhat hollow end for a man who had such a massive influence on the world.

Image courtesy of The Weinstein Company, via YouTube, with thanks.

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