THE IMITATION GAME (2014)


Imitation Game Greetings again from the darkness. This year’s holiday movie season has presented us with three very different war-based films – each a potential Oscar contender, and each with its own life lesson.  Norwegian director Morten Tyldum (the excellent Headhunters, 2011) brings Andrew Hodges’ biographical book  to the screen in the form of the remarkable and true story of Alan Turing, the man credited by many (including Winston Churchill) for helping win WWII.

Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician and cryptoanalyst. He was also homosexual. Celebrated for his work in helping Great Britain crack the German’s “Enigma” messages, he was also persecuted (through chemical castration) for his homosexuality. His suicide at age 41 (1954) was the likely result of his “treatment” during an era when such “unacceptable” behavior overshadowed any and all mental genius.

The film utilizes Turing’s 1951 police interrogation by a sympathetic and curious detective (Rory Kinnear) as a framing device for the three significant time periods of his life. We see Turing as a bullied schoolboy (played by Alex Lawther) discovering the early signs of his own brilliance, as well as his first love. Most significantly, we witness Turing’s work with the Hut 8 team at Bletchley Park as they worked on complex code-breaking; and finally we see the remnants of a broken man, bathed in solitude and work, who has no real place in society.

Benedict Cumberbatch gives an astounding performance as Alan Turing. We cannot take our eyes off of him, despite his Asperger’s-type social awkwardness. Cumberbatch manages to expertly capture each extreme emotion that befalls Turing, not the least of which is the frustration of the genius, when lesser minds are unable to follow his vision. Some of the best scenes are of Turing’s confrontations with a Royal Navy Commander (perfectly played by Charles Dance), and of course, the critical moments with the other members of his code-breaking team (including Matthew Goode and Keira Knightley).

There are so many aspects to Turing’s story: his impact on ending the war, how society treats true genius, his isolated childhood and final years, the extreme lack of civil rights for homosexuals of the time, and how his work on “Christopher” led to the development of computers. The second half of the film certainly presents the moral quandary, and the performance of Cumberbatch as a tortured genius overpowers any clichés that might creep in. Alexandre Desplat’s piano and strings score is a nice compliment without ever becoming overbearing, and the use of actual war newsreels adds just enough reminder of what the mission was for this group of geeks (today’s terminology).

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are interested in how brains, not just brawn, can impact a war OR you want to see one of the best performances of the year by an actor in a lead role

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are expecting WWII battlefield reenactments

Watch the trailer:

 

 

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3 Responses to THE IMITATION GAME (2014)

  1. John Raymond (Ray) Peterson says:

    An outstanding film. I was reminded of the John LeCarré’s thrilling twists to stories; Morten Tyldum managed to bring such thrill to the movie.
    All the performances and especially the principal role superbly executed.
    I enjoyed the thought process of Turing, like a master chess player, and the delicate ‘intelligence thinking’ conveyed by Mark Strong’s character, the strong willed and deliberate mind of the Joan Clark character… and on and on.
    I’ll make sure all my friends see this movie and I’ll watch it again with them. The movie elevates the human spirit vicariously through the characters of this story and brings us back down to the sad sad reality of life, as theses brilliant minds seldom get their just recognition.

    • True genius is so fascinating. As impressive as Turing was, the heart-breaking aspect of his story is just such a shame.

      • John Raymond (Ray) Peterson says:

        Oh you’re right, but I take solace in thinking his treatment back then is a thing of the past, at least I hope. What isn’t, is that some people, brilliant minds of today, are likely however to have to live with the kind of knowledge that they won’t, when they could, prevent the death of some people for the grater good; that is a tragedy too.
        Good movies sure give us a lot to think about.

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