Film review: The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch stars in The Imitation Game
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Joseph Austin reviews riveting historical war drama The Imitation Game.

The Second World War is won with maths and not machine guns in thrilling period bio-pic The Imitation Game.

With an incredible performance from lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch, director Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game is a riveting, albeit rather conventional, historical drama that sheds light on the triumphs of forgotten war hero Alan Turing.

About the British Government’s attempts to break the secret Nazi code Enigma during the Second World War, the film documents the tragic life of mathematician and cryptanalyst Turing (Cumberbatch), from his early years at boarding school to his imprisonment after the war for being a homosexual.

The film begins in 1952 after Turing’s home has been burgled.

Believing him to be a suspicious character, Detective Nock (Rory Kinnear) looks into Turing’s ‘classified’ military history.

Cut to 1941, Bletchley Park and the British Government’s secret radio headquarters.

Charles Dance’s rigid Commander Denniston and Mark Strong’s shady MI6 chief Stewart Menzies explain to Turing and a small group of Britain’s finest maths minds why they’re here – to crack the German’s uncrackable Enigma code, saving countless lives and giving the Allies a slim chance at winning the war.

As intelligent as he is socially awkward, Turing’s disdain towards his fellow codebreakers is curbed by new recruit Joan Clark, played by Keira Knightley, and the two form a close relationship as well as bringing the rest of the group together.

What makes The Imitation Game such a success is that up until very recently most people hadn’t even heard of Turing.

Kept a secret for decades after the war by governments, Turing’s story is a fascinating insight into the life of one of the most important figures in British military history.

It has a poignancy that resonates as much today as it should have done in 1954 – the year of his tragic suicide.

Cumberbatch plays Turing as a brilliant mastermind bordering on arrogant, yet immensely emotional, markedly autistic and, most importantly, deeply human.

It’s certainly the Sherlock and Star Trek star’s finest on-screen performance and is worth seeing for the ticket price alone.

The rest of the cast do their jobs well. Keira Knightley’s Clark is rather interesting as the only woman to help break the code.

Her quasi-romance with Turing, necessary to keep Clark at Bletchley Park, is fated to fail from the start.

Also worth a mention is fellow mathematician Hugh, played by the charismatic Watchmen baddy Matthew Goode. The Brit should certainly feature more often.

But what lets The Imitation Game down slightly is its by-the-numbers narrative.

We hear of Turing’s ‘indecent’ homosexual acts but we’re never allowed to venture into this part of his life.

Plus, a rather unrealistic (bearing in mind the film’s very realistic representation) Hollywood “Eureka!” moment skews its climax a touch.

An Oscar nomination undoubtedly awaits for man of the moment Cumberbatch.

Without him The Imitation Game is only half is good. With him, it makes for a damn fine game indeed.