Benedict Cumberbatch turns in a masterful performance as Alan Turing in Moreten Tyldum’s Biopic/WWII Thriller, The Imitation Game.
Based on the book by Andrew Hodges, with a screenplay by Graham Moore, the film follows the life story of brilliant mathematician, Alan Turing, slipping back and forth through his life, centering on his youth in school, his later life in 1951, and his service, top-secret service to his country during World War II.
Recruited by the S.I.S., personified by sharply dressed Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong), Turing travels north of London, and tackles the unbreakable, unsolvable problem represented by the Nazi’s Enigma code machine, a complex communication system that has left the Allies stymied and lacking information about enemy movements.
Butting heads with the site’s commanding officer, Denniston (Charles Dance), and his fellows, including Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), he recruits new staff, including Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightley) and works to create a machine to take on a machine, with an eye on ending the war.
Balancing a gentle love story, a wartime thriller, with the possibility of a Soviet agent in their midst, and a mystery that haunts his later life, the film is beautifully crafted, tightly paced, and filled with top-caliber actors turning in fantastic performance.
Front and center through all of it is Cumberbatch. He turns in a mesmerizing and engrossing performance, proving once again he is one of the most talented actors working today. He completely embodies Turing, making the man awkward, brilliant, social incompetent, and human. There are subtle physical movements, a flick of the eye, things that belie how anxious he is around other people, how he simply wants to do his work, and Turing, many times is a literalist.
The script is tight, and moves along rapidly, never losing its footing or its viewers, dolling out a number of laughs, endearing the characters to us, and at times leaving us with serious moral dilemmas.
I walked out of this film completely stunned. I had known the story of the Enigma for a number of years, but wasn’t quite as aware of Turing as I should be. And this definitely puts the man to the fore, as we examine his life, and all of the things that shaped who he was.
There is palpable tension as the group works to break the code, intercut on occasion with scenes of the war, that for them, seemed so far away. As relationships are formed, secrets revealed, and trials and tribulations with codes and ciphers fill the wartime section of the film, the viewer is caught up in a different time, and caught up so completely, because the production design, the costuming, everything creates the reality of wartime England.
The film is rounded out with a piano-filled score by Alexandre Desplat, and it serves to highlight some wonderful sequences, none of which I want to spoil for you. All I can say is, that if you have the opportunity to take this one in, make sure you do.
The Imitation Game is a beautifully crafted film, highly enjoyable, and a shoe-in for award season.
It also fires my imagination to read more about the subject!
Have you seen this yet?