The Imitation Game, 2014.
Directed by Morten Tylbum.
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear and Matthew Goode.
The true story of mathematician Alan Turing and his time spent at Bletchley Park developing a machine to crack the enigma code.
The treatment of Alan Turing by the British Government is a stain on our history and Morten Tylburn’s English language debut is a fitting biopic for the great man. Starting in a police interrogation room in 1951 and flashing back through Alan’s childhood and his time at Bletchley Park developing the first computer; The Imitation Game is a multi-layered and thrilling biopic to watch.
Underlying the entire film is the fact that Alan Turing was homosexual and those going into the film not knowing this will enjoy how his sexuality comes to life through the different time periods. The film transitions easily between the events of the war and the later sentencing for indecency and court appointed chemical castration. The problem that can occur with biopics is that we already know the ending, and so it’s tricky to get the audience invested in the character. This is where The Imitation Game succeeds expertly, with Benedict Cumberbatch taking on the lead role and making Turing likeable despite his arrogance and stand offish nature. He is also supported by a first rate cast including Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode and Keira Knightley in her best role in a long time.
This film rests on Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Alan Turing. Although as an audience we never get to know the full extent of Turing’s life i.e. his parents, upbringing, romantic liaisons and so, he is still an enthralling character to watch. The final scenes of the film are heart breaking, even more so when you think about the realities of homosexual men at that time. Cumberbatch doesn’t over act as Turing and by the end you do like him and emphathise with him in his isolation. True there are hints of Sherlock in there – namely in the opening scenes – but this is quickly reeled in and replaced with a much deeper intensity.
The story of the code breakers during World War 2 is fascinating and it would have been nice to get a bit more background on the other people working with Turing. The creation of Alan’s computer and the alarm at midnight sounding the wasted days are effective in demonstrating how significant these people were. Director Tylbum doesn’t show as much flair behind the camera as his previous film Headhunters, but he does manage to make the shots of machine cogs turning and frantic scribblings keep your interest as you wait for the moment where they finally crack the code. Tylbum is careful not to paint the code breakers as saints who won the war. Instead he recognises the contribution of these people to a war that was fought at home and on the front.
There is Oscar buzz aplenty for Cumberbatch in this role and his performance is enthralling and I have no doubt that he’ll lead the nominations. The only quandary is whether The Imitation Game is a full representation of Alan Turing’s life. In my mind it’s not as we don’t get to see much about his time after or before the War. Instead the film is a celebration of his finest achievement, whilst also addressing the hideous treatment of him in the post war years. It is a sensational film to watch, and although there are a few under developed story aspects – the case of a Soviet spy to name one – it is an enthralling watch and a fitting tribute.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Helen Murdoch is a freelance writer – Follow me on Twitter