The Imitation Game

Movie Review #946

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Limited release on November 28, 2014. Nationwide release on December 25, 2014. Biography/Drama/Thriller. This film is rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking. Runs 114 minutes. A British-American co-production. Directed by Morten Tyldum. Based on the book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges. Screenplay by Graham Moore. Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, and Matthew Beard.

WELL DONE TO ALL, MOST ESPECIALLY CUMBERBATCH.

★★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

Twitter is possibly the greatest thing a human has ever invented. I know, random point to start on, but bear with me. Twitter, anyhow, is amazing, but if we can prove that chimps are smarter than humans, then maybe it would have been safer to give chimps access to the social network than humans. Because humans can be really, really stupid. I really don’t get how the sociology of microblogging works: I have something around 3,000 followers, and there’s little chance that I’ll get any responses when I praise Daniel Day-Lewis, maybe one retweet. But I distinctly remember the time I called out Benedict Cumberbatch, in less than 140 characters, and denied his acting abilities–I even called him (cue gasp) overrated!–and I had to hear about how wrong I was from so many of my followers, plus a couple who probably hadn’t come across my Twitter handle until then.

I wouldn’t go back and “unsend” those tweets, because at that time, I hadn’t seen anything but overacting from Cumberbatch. But I don’t think I’d ever consider knocking him again–not after watching his performance as Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game”.

“The Imitation Game” has all the tension of a WWII movie, and that’s largely because of the story’s intrigue and the script’s dialogue. The placement of various news stories from the time of war is authentic. In effect, these clips work as a montage, putting Turing’s battle–a race against the clock and a battle to prove that his solution to the Enigma machine is the most valid–into the perspective of military attacks, an equally tense aspect of WWII that we most immediately associate with it.

The script details Turing’s time at Bletchley Park, during World War II, where he joins a cryptography team working to decode the Enigma machine. Nazi Germany had designed this device to send coded messages to their military. Though one would have to understand German fluently to decode these messages properly, and the coding always changed at midnight. The task of decoding the messages was considered impossible by every one of the Allied powers that had tried. But now it’s Britain’s turn to take a stab at it, and Turing insists that he can invent a machine that will work to find patterns in the Enigma machine far faster than any human could.

You really come out of this movie honoring Turing as a hero, and having developed a sort of emotional understanding of him. Cumberbatch does a fine job capturing Turing as a worker and otherwise. His Machiavellian nature straddles a line between obsession and determination. At the same time, his socially awkward personality limits his progress when he must cooperate with his other teammates at Bletchley Park.

The movie is excellent, but it isn’t all perfect. With the exception of the compassionate, determined Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley, in a winning performance), the rest of the Bletchley team seems rather one-dimensional. For the first half of the movie, none of them approves of Turing. Then when an MI6 officer comes and tries to fire Turing, they all suddenly change their minds. Which, by the way, results in them all delivering the “If you fire him, you’ll have to fire me, too” cliché. But that’s really nothing compared to how great the rest of the movie is. “The Imitation Game” grossed $126 million, making it THE highest-grossing independent film of 2014. And that makes me very happy, to think that so many people saw it.

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5 thoughts on “The Imitation Game

    • I’m glad to be in good company, too.

      LOL “historical smoking” is something the MPAA puts in their film ratings nowadays whenever we’re watching smoking in a movie set in a period before people learned smoking was so harmful. So they deem it historically accurate, basically, and list it at “historical smoking” instead of just “smoking.” Personally, I don’t see why they don’t just leave it out of the movie. If there’s any kid dumb enough to be surprised by the fact that people smoked like chimneys before they knew it was bad for them, then that kid’s probably too dumb to watch something like The Imitation Game…or any costume drama.

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