There are two things on the mind of The Imitation Game. One of them draws us in, while the other one is more likely to stick with us after the credits start to roll. The film is about Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a man who lived in the first half of the 20th Century. He was someone who was instrumental in helping crack the Enigma code, which was being used by the Germans during World War 2 to encrypt messages. He was also a homosexual, something illegal in England at that time. The film draws you in by telling us the story of how he helped crack the code, but what lingers is the way he was prosecuted for his homosexuality.
Alan Turing is our protagonist, playing a brilliant mathematician who doesn’t understand what jokes are. He talks his way into letting the British top secret program of codebreakers after essentially telling his soon-to-be boss (Charles Dance) that he already knew what they were doing, and that he was the only one who could do it. The task? Cracking a system with 150 million million million combinations that resets every 24 hours.
The rest of the team members — the most prominent of whom is Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), who immediately dislikes Turing — work at manually cracking the code each day, sometimes getting somewhat close but having to reset every day at midnight, and even if they did succeed for one day, they still wouldn’t be able to crack any the next day. Meanwhile, Turing begins to work on a machine to do it for them, which would eventually lead to the computers we use to this very day.
Meanwhile, we sometimes flashback to aspects of Turing’s childhood, a subplot involves an engagement to the only woman in the group, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), and eventually Turing’s homosexuality. It’s an all-encompassing movie about a story that was classified for 50 years. The film does his life justice. It probably would have been difficult to mess it up, but director Morten Tyldum, in his English-language debut, has turned a pretty spectacular story into a pretty spectacular film.
This isn’t a thriller, but it’s quite suspenseful at times. It’s not a comedy, but it contains a good chunk of humor. It’s not a romance, but … actually, it’s just not a romance, even if the sexual orientation of its protagonist becomes both a plot point and a discussion topic. It’s a smart and strong drama with elements of comedy and thriller that is engaging from start to finish and does justice to a real-life tragic story. That’s about all you can ask for, isn’t it?
Well, you can also ask for pitch-perfect historical accuracy, gorgeous cinematography, and a wondrous musical score. The Imitation Game has all of those, too. What else is there? Oh, right, acting. I know Benedict Cumberbatch is liked quite a lot by … well, everyone it seems, but it’s well-deserved, especially with roles like this one. The role of Alan Turing seems tailor-made for Cumberbatch, who can play smart as well as anyone. He’s great here, and makes the movie just that much sweeter with what could be career-best work.
And it’s not just Cumberbatch that’s really good; it’s the whole cast. Cumberbatch is just the star, and the one that will receive the most accolades, but the entire cast is great. Keira Knightley gets to play an — for the times — atypical female role, Matthew Goode gets to play a good man who often looks like he’s the villain, while Mark Strong and Charles Dance play authority figures. Everyone’s great, and when it comes time to give out acting awards for entire casts, The Imitation Game might be a good pick.
Smart, funny, suspenseful, well-intentioned, beautifully shot and scored, and well-acted, The Imitation Game is definitely worth your time. It doesn’t misstep at all, is a delightful watch from start to finish, has a terrific lead performance from Benedict Cumberbatch, and will fill you in on a story that was classified for 50 years. I don’t have anything bad to say about The Imitation Game. It works for its entire running time and will leave you thinking about it well after it concludes.