The Imitation Game is the true story of mathematician Alan Turing and his quest to crack the German Enigma machine during World War II and also his personal battle within himself. Directed by Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game is the Norwegian’s first English-speaking film and he hit this one out of the park particularly on the complexity of the script and the acting chops if lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch.
The film begins with Turing being interrogated by his former employer, the British Intelligence Agency, about his personal life and how much knowledge he had of the British government almost as if he were a spy, which is a recurring theme throughout the film. The opening line is a narration by Turing asking the audience ‘Are you paying attention?’ which the audience should because the film is essentially about mathematicians attempting to break the most difficult and most important code the world has ever known. Early in the film during a flashback to Turing’s grade school days he is studying mathematics while his friend is studying code-breaking. When they two begin discussing the difference between the two, Turing responds with ‘When people talk to each other, they never say what they mean….They say something else and you’re expected to just know what they mean.’ For the rest of the film, it seemed like no one ever said exactly what they meant, but their actions spoke for them.
The strength of The Imitation Game is the performance of lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who brilliantly portrayed the strange yet brilliant Alan Turing. In real life, Cumberbatch is actually a distant relative to Turing on his mother’s side and also attended a lot of the same schools throughout his educational years. The entire movie, you cannot take your eyes of Cumberbatch’s performance and he completely steals the spotlight away from an unknown yet talented cast of supporting actors and actresses. Opposite Cumberbatch is Keira Knightley who plays Joan Clarke, a female mathematician who is just as brilliant in the field of mathematics as Cumberbatch and his team of whiz kids but cannot join because she is a woman.
Tyldum does an excellent job of keeping the story moving at a pace that feels a lot like the ‘Christopher’ machine that Turing uses to try and crack the Enigma code; constantly clicking along and getting to the next plot twist and believe me there are plenty. The Imitation Game is a great change of pace from all of the other World War II films that have been released in the past couple of years. We’ve all seen recreations of D-Day, the battles in the Pacific, ground forces in France, etc but the story of the most essential part of defeated the Nazis had never been told until now. The Imitation Game is a complex, intelligent and puzzling film about the men and women behind breaking the Enigma code which Winston Churchill was stated to say was the ‘the single greatest contribution in Britain’s war effort.’
The Imitation Game has received plenty of honors already including eight Oscar nominations including Best Motion Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role & Achievement in Directing among others. I don’t think Cumberbatch will win the Oscar but I haven’t ruled him out as an upset for that category and to be nominated for Best Director in your first foray into an English-speaking film is quite the achievement in itself for Morten Tyldum. If you love puzzles and intelligent dramas where you really have to pay attention as Turing asked in the beginning of the film, you will thoroughly enjoy The Imitation Game.