THE IMITATION GAME review by Rahul Vedantam – Benedict Cumberbatch embodies Alan Turing

THE IMITATION GAME review by Rahul Vedantam – Benedict Cumberbatch embodies Alan Turing


There is something appealing about the arrogant awkward academic. Whether it is THE BIG BANG THEORY’S Sheldon Cooper, THE SOCIAL NETWORK’s Mark Zuckerburg or the BBC’s Sherlock, these characters see more than you or I; they have the right to brag so insufferably. This inherent ability to be better than others is probably what makes them so cool. It’s the same effect that allows Kobe Bryant to say whatever he wants. He is simply allowed to. THE IMITATION GAME celebrates one of these real life geniuses, Alan Turing, and his efforts to save millions of lives in World War II.

During WWII Turing worked in a small secret group to decode the impossible Nazi enigma code to be able to anticipate Nazi attacks. His story translates well to the big screen: an indisputable hero solving an impossible code but ending in a disgraced death due to his homosexuality (which was criminal back then). It screams Academy Awards. THE IMITATION GAME succeeds so vastly not by simply riding on stories in Andrew Hodges’ biography, on which the movie is based, but from the directing of Morten Tyldum and performance of Benedict Cumberbatch. It rarely missteps while telling a complex story that both lionizes and humanizes Turing.

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum doesn’t try to constrain the production into a biopic or war film. Instead he tells stories of the stress of the code with 159 million million million possibilities while focusing on Turing’s ability to handle it. This choice gives Tyldum freedom to craft the themes and pacing of the story as he likes while crafting some incredible scenes. My favorite moment of the film is a montage showing both the crossword Turing uses to recruit new mathematicians and the German bombings going on throughout England. It skillfully tells the story of the bombings in the background while focusing on the puzzle, brings the bombings into the foreground, and then pushes them back into the background just after they’ve served their purpose of showing the terror of living during WWII.

In addition there is a great balance of tone throughout the movie. Humor is placed where it should be, while historical thriller and human drama push the story forward. Turing constantly presents a sort of Sherlock Holmes-esque charm that lends itself to plenty of humor, while the pressure of completing his daring computer weighs down on everyone, and flashes to the past and future revealing more about Turing as a person. All of these contribute to painting a complete picture of Alan Turing as a person while he is working on the greatest project of his life.

Turing is the center of the film and therefore Cumberbatch’s performance makes or breaks this movie. Luckily Cumberbatch knocks it out of the park. Despite the similarities to his character in SHERLOCK, at no point does is it seem that this is the same character, or that Cumberbatch was typecast into the part. Turing is distinct in his stutter, actions, and mannerism and Cumberbatch plays the character well, though he is undoubtedly helped by the fantastic writing. Keira Knightley does a fantastic job as Joan Clarke, and their chemistry is real. Mark Strong and Allen Leech both fill their roles in the supporting cast well and do nothing but maintain the consistency of fantastic acting.

The plot of the story is paced well, but if there is one complaint to be made it is that some scenes seem too dramatic to have even been interpreted from a real life event. But the movie recognizes this and focuses itself on the human story it is telling. The darker moments come with great empathy considering the amount of stress and secrets that Turing had to deal with on a daily basis. THE IMITATION GAME follows Turing through a human story of stress and failure while praising the hero who solved the enigma code and saved millions of lives. It is a movie that deserves a spot on the watch list of anyone who wants to learn more about the life of this truly great man.

THE IMITATION GAME opens wide on December 25, 2015

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