It is rare for a historical drama to have as much contemporary relevance as The Imitation Game. The film is the English language debut from director Morten Tyldum and follow up to his 2011 thriller Headhunters (Hodejegerne).
Adapted by Graham Moore from Andrew Hodges' biography Alan Turing: The Enigma, The Imitation Game focuses on the secret code-breaking work undertaken to decipher the German Enigma machine during World War II. Some liberties are taken with the history, but everything is rooted in actual events. The encryption device, which features more than 100 billion possible settings to encode messages, is reset every day at midnight. The British team working at Bletchley Park must race against the clock to complete the impossible task of defeating Enigma.
Benedict Cumberbatch is magnificent as mathematician Alan Turing, a man far ahead of his time giving serious thought to artificial intelligence and developing the precursor to modern computers. He ignores his fellow cryptologists and linguists to focus on building his theoretical machine to unlock Enigma. Flashbacks show how Turing was isolated as an adolescent, abused by his classmates and having only one close friend. He grows up a loner, eschewing most personal relationships in favor of intellectual challenges. The film looks ahead to Turing's post-war drama as the secrecy concerning his professional and private life draws the attention of local police.
What makes Cumberbatch's portrayal so great is how much it contrasts with his work as Sherlock Holmes, a brilliant mind capable of reading people in a way Turing never can. Cumberbatch's Turing is a complicated man, forced to conceal his homosexuality and stifle his emotions. It is only through Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), a woman he recruits to Bletchley Park, that he learns to work with others in support of the greater good. This not only enables him to perfect his machine but also convince the others that breaking the code is not enough. If the Nazis realize their messages are decoded they will alter the machine and all of their work will be wasted.
Knightley and Cumberbatch are receiving much acclaim for their acting, and deservedly so. Young Alex Lawther is excellent as the teenaged Turing, capturing the heart of audiences while evoking the same character traits Cumberbatch features in his performance. The personal story of Turing's life is given equal weight to the professional in the film, creating a story that raises broad philosophical questions alongside its intimate drama.
Despite its setting, The Imitation Game is a modern film with meaningful implications about contemporary society. Shedding light on an event and a life shrouded in secrecy for decades, Tyldum perfectly sequences scenes from Turing's life to capture the spirit of the man and create a riveting historical drama.Our Rating: Observe