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During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians.
“The Imitation Game” trailer looks like a film specifically aimed at the Oscars, triumph over adversity being its major feature (see Unbroken). Fortunately, this has much more about it and a lot of that is down to impeccable acting from the very strong cast. The film plays like a two-hander switching its focus between the events at Bletchley Park, where Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) strives to break the Enigma encryption device and the tragic events of his later life, which focused on his homosexuality. Needless to say that much is owed to how fascinating and shocking the story is.
For those that do know the whole story, rest assured it is told efficiently thanks to careful direction from Morten Tyldum. Looking at this and his last film “Headhunters” in isolation, he’s certainly a talented director and I like that his films are generally free of flab. Where this was a major strength with “Headhunters” (the plot holes barely have time to register thanks to brisk pacing), I feel that “The Imitation Game” could even have benefitted from an extra 20-30 minutes in the company of the character, understanding more about the psychological traumas he suffered.
This was a very enjoyable film, but when put in context with some of the other films that have been Oscar-nominated (in particular Selma) it feels lightweight. Selma chose to focus on a particular moment in Martin Luther King’s life and it was all the better for it. A braver, less-obvious choice of focusing on the latter part of Alan Turing’s life could’ve made the film more emotionally engaging, whereas it seemed like it was a little bit tagged on. It is certainly alluded to but was simply brushed over after the amount of time dedicated to cracking Enigma, as these later moments in his life have some of the emotional resonance lacking throughout the rest of the picture.
Benedict Cumberbatch was deserving of his Oscar nomination as he feels like a real person rather than an impression or the idea of Turing. Keira Knightley also does a superb job of a role that could easily have been side-lined or caricature, turning Joan Clarke into an interesting and likeable character. Overall, it is a beautiful depiction of an extraordinary human being who has undoubtedly had a lasting impact in all of our lives one way or another. The film is entertaining definitely, but falls short of definitively depicting Turing’s achievements and tragedy.