“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
Sometimes it is the extremely brilliant people who have the hardest time assimilating into society. This brilliant person in The Imitation Game is Englishman Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a renowned mathematician and logician, among other titles. In the early 1940’s, the war between the Allied and Axis powers continues to be fought, with the Axis powers currently having a major advantage due to the impenetrable Enigma code utilized by Nazi Germany.
To seize momentum away from the enemy, the code must be cracked, which is where Turing and his intellect comes to the forefront. With time not the side of the Allies, the British government puts together the country’s brightest individuals like Turing, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), and others to devise a solution. To compound the stress of essentially being responsible for the direction the war goes, Alan harbors a secret: He is a homosexual in a time and place that doesn’t support people of this ilk.
The story of Alan Turing seems to be a largely unknown one, which The Imitation Game sheds light upon via the silver screen. Helmed by director Morten Tyldun, the passion and care towards this project is very noticeable, and all in all it is pretty solid. Aside from telling the story of the gifted individual, this also seems to exist for a pretty clear goal: getting those award nominations.
By no means is The Imitation Game a terrible movie, far from it really. Again, Tyldun exhibits much care and attention to detail with regards to the screenplay. While not being familiar with the man, nothing that appeared here struck yours truly as being too embellished or completely shoehorned in. It is Hollywood, taking liberties here and there but not necessarily abusing them. In a surprise, the movie carries a totally natural humor that helps to minimize the heaviness.
Additionally, the director really nails the feel and atmosphere of 1940’s England, from speech to dress to lighting to exterior. Being shot on location most likely made this a slightly easier feat, but still, it takes skill to get the past right in an aesthetic sense on screen. The production is of great quality, as is the introspective and moving score put together by Alexandre Desplat, who has quite the notable and diverse 2014 with scoring Godzilla, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and now this.
Sticking with the look at the screenplay however, there are a few qualms. For all of the focus that Tyldun brings to telling the story and its consistent pacing, there is a lack of both in the final part of the film, to the point where it actually becomes haphazard and somewhat harder to follow. Also (and this may be a very personal feeling) the story simply isn’t all that interesting or intriguing. In no way am I diminishing what Turing did, it is just that his story may not be one, as a whole, that lends itself to film effortlessly. The story is compelling in moments, but also stuck in molasses here and there, being just as drab as the well-crafted scenery.
Much like another flick taking a look at a brilliant man’s life and events, The Imitation Game features a brilliant performance from a man who portrays the main character. What Benedict Cumberbatch is able to do here is pretty riveting. He is a guy to get behind because of why he is doing this, but he is clearly also a difficult guy to be around on a daily basis, either intentionally or unintentionally. The performance is precise and systematic, full of attention to detail. Cumberbatch is one of the best working in the industry today.
Lending some star power to the cast is Keira Knightley, starring as Joan Clarke. While she is good in her role, there isn’t a ton of note here, and the previous allusions made by yours truly with regards to embellishment apply here. The relationship between Clarke and Turing in this feels more romanticized than it probably was, and while the movie occasionally hints at this, it seems to want it both ways, wanting there to be something but nothing at the same time. Adding another level of star power is Mark Strong, who despite his tough appearance, turns in mellow and amusing work as an agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service. The rest of the cast comprising of Turing’s colleagues are definitely serviceable and do what is needed when asked.
Anchored by rock-solid acting by Benedict Cumberbatch and with what would appear to be a mostly grounded telling of Turing, his difficulties, and his tide-turning accomplishment, The Imitation Game is a nice, albeit a bit dry, look at a World War II story that probably gets lost in the bigger rubble more than it should.
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