Director: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Charles Dance, Mark Strong
You know you’ve done something right when your film is nominated for the Best Picture category at The Oscars. So Morten Tyldum’s ‘The Imitation Game’ must be an exceptional film, right? That was my inherent reasoning, but I still had some reluctance to watch it, I just didn’t feel excited like I am by so many other films. Judging by the results at The Oscars 2015, where ‘The Imitation Game’ scooped just one award, I wasn’t expecting anything outstanding. But I just kept remembering the heartfelt winner’s speech delivered by Graham Moore, for Best Adapted Screenplay; the man deserved my time and attention for two hours at least. The tragic tone of Moore’s speech certainly resonates with the tone and composition of the film, something which the whole production should be proud to have conveyed so acutely.
‘The Imitation Game’ delves into the life of Alan Turing, the man who cracked the Nazi Enigma code and helped to end World War II. Honestly, I was expecting more of a focus on the genius and his success in cracking the code, but the story goes deeper than that, to explore the dark private life of the complex character. With Germany dominating the war, the British government secretly hired a team of brilliant mathematicians to decrypt Nazi messages. The problem was, Enigma recoded each day at midnight, and was capable of an almost infinite amount of different codes. At the heart of the group tasked with such an impossible mission, was the solitary Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose rare interactions with his peers were always tinged with a frustrating sense of superiority. Alan Turing was awkward but incredibly driven, and it was his magnificent vision of a super-computer which effectively won the war for the Allies and saved an estimated 14 million lives.
Benedict Cumberbatch must have been taking notes from his other problem solving alter-ego when preparing for this project, as the arrogance, apathy and wit he brought to the role of Alan Turing was unmistakably Sherlock-esque. He clearly enjoys playing the oddball genius, and why not, he’s very, very good at it. Cumberbatch manages to make a pretty good film, just that little bit better, as all others involved seem to pale in insignificance next to this star performance. Opposite Mr Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley is somewhat a non-entity as Joan Clarke, the ‘wife’ of Alan Turing. There is an overwhelming British tone to the film, and whilst the settings and the music add to this, no one makes a film feel like a period drama quite like Keira. I think that could be the reason she fades into the background for me, maybe I heard her awfully pompous accent and ignored the protestations of “I was born in the wrong era, look at me”.
Now, I’m always keen on biopics; I love deciphering the realism of it all and understanding people who do amazing things that the world needs to know about. But as I said, ‘The Imitation Game’ is more concerned with Alan Turing’s secret, personal life than his accomplishments during the war. So once the war is won, we only just begin to fully understand the struggle Turing endured through his tragically short life. Unfortunately, such a poignant story was betrayed by a disjointed narrative which shifted between various different points in Alan Turing’s life, leaving me feeling a little lost at times.
I have to commend the intense use of sound and the more dramatic scenes in the film, which at times reached heights of brilliance. But these were sporadic to say the least, and the film lost its way with half an hour to go. Whilst there was a lot of attention paid to the internal affairs of Alan Turing, which made for quite powerful and emotional cinema, I feel there could have been more of a focus on the brilliance of the man too. There is no doubting that ‘The Imitation Game’ is a good film, and it is certainly worth a watch, but I have to say this was personally my least favourite of the Oscars 2015 Best Picture nominations.