Movie Review: Benedict Cumberbatch Is Mesmerizing In “The Imitation Game”


Review by James McDonald

English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, helps crack the Enigma code during World War II.

“The Imitation Game” is based on the true story of British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing. He was one of a small group of code-breakers who were hired by the British government during World War II to help crack the Nazi’s Enigma code and who were instrumental in the Allies winning the war. Sadly, some years later, he was criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality and in 1954, after chemical castration, he committed suicide. Benedict Cumberbatch is absolutely flawless in his portrayal of the mathematical biologist, his meticulous transformation into Turing’s unkempt manner accommodated by his heavily stammered speech, is Oscar-worthy. I have not seen an actor disappear into a role this meticulously in a long time and my appreciation of Mr. Cumberbatch and his remarkable thespian capabilities have literally skyrocketed.

The story cuts back and forth between his wartime experiences trying to crack the German Enigma and when he was a young boy in school. He was bullied a lot because academically, he was more advanced than all the other kids but he had one true friend in Christopher Morcom (Jack Bannon), a boy who seemingly felt sorry for Alan and quickly befriended him. Unbeknownst to Christopher, Alan’s feelings ran deeper than friendship but before he had a chance to inform him, Christopher died from bovine tuberculosis and Alan retreated even further inside himself. While trying to break the Enigma, the only woman on the team, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), impresses Alan with her smarts and they become good friends and slowly, he falls for her, all the while thinking that if they were to marry, it could possibly divert any and all suspicion from him and his sexual orientation.

Eventually, he tells Joan about his sexual temperament and she informs him that she already knew but that she still wants to marry him as she loves the person he is and enjoys being around him. He quickly distances himself from her, obviously afraid of emotional closeness but it doesn’t stop the duo from professionally continuing their work on trying to decipher Hitler’s apparently unbreakable code. Along the way, Turing has the idea to build a machine that will break the code but everybody around him is convinced he is crazy but through his contact at MI6, the person who initially hired him, he manages to secure the necessary funding to build the machine but after a lengthy period of time with no results, he is on the verge of being fired when he formulates the fundamental breakthrough that the Allies need in order to gain the advantage over the Nazis.

The movie doesn’t end once Turing’s development comes to light, instead, it continues to deal with a multitude of facets, including his homosexuality and the fact that MI6 are convinced there is a Russian double agent within the group, with Turing being their number one suspect. Director Morten Tyldum creates a genuinely authentic World War II drama, complete with first-rate performances from the entire cast. Screenwriter Graham Moore successfully adapts Andrew Hodges’ book, ‘Alan Turing: The Enigma’ and turns it into a taut, gripping thriller, drenched in wartime ambience.

Cinematographer Oliver Wood, who lensed the last two Matt Damon Jason Bourne movies, thankfully takes his visual aesthetic approach down a notch and instead of frenzied, relentless hand-held camerawork, we get smooth, beautifully-framed, solid wide angle shots where we can see absolutely everything onscreen without the accompanying headaches and nausea one has become accustomed to experiencing in so many thrillers these days. It was so refreshing to sit back and watch an old-fashioned World War II movie complete with exceptional performances and deft direction that stays with you long after the film has ended. Very highly recommended.

In theaters December 25th

James McDonald
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