The Imitation Game (2014) – Film Review

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game Film ReviewThe Imitation Game

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance

Directed by Morten Tyldum, written by Graham Moore, based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

IMDB Rating: 8.1

Nominated for Oscars and launching Cumberbatch to stardom, this true story about the secret hero of World War Two was a huge success last year for the relatively small time Morten Tyldum and Graham Moore.

The Imitation game follows the true life of Alan Turing (Cumberbatch), a brilliant but vulnerable cryptanalyst who was tasked with cracking the unbreakable code system in use by Nazi Germany during World War Two.

Commander Denniston: Enigma isn’t difficult, it’s impossible. The Americans, the Russians, the French, the Germans, everyone thinks Enigma is unbreakable.

Alan Turing: Good. Let me try and we’ll know for sure, won’t we?

The story itself isn’t necessarily that remarkable in terms of movies – it goes without saying that in real life it’s extraordinary, but there’s not exactly any unexpected twists and turns here. What makes this better than a lot of World War based films I’ve seen is how snappy the writing is in The Imitation Game. Graham Moore won an Oscar for his writing in this film and it is obvious why straight from the start. The writing is clever, quirky, easily quotable and he has done the ‘old fashioned Brit’ language perfectly, not overdoing it to make it cheesy but by no means understating it – quite a feat for a kid from Chicago! I’m not necessarily a fan of historic or old fashioned British films – the people are usually too posh and unrelatable, and the action (if any) isn’t usually that entertaining and can be quite dark. However in this film, while the characters are posh they do seem quite normal and almost relatable, especially in their attempts to reason with the unsympathetic Alan Turing.

I must admit I’m not a huge fan of films that follow more than one point in time during the film. The Imitation Game looks at Turings childhood, cracking the enigma code and his arrest after the war all at the same time, chopping and changing between them as the film progresses. I fully understand why they did it, and he probably has to do it for the story, but I guess I just prefer my films to run chronologically. The odd flashback is fine, but not changing all the way through the film.

As you would expect, the acting is to a very high standard in this film. Cumberbatch plays a character in Alan Turing that fits a similar mould to his previous successes. Smart, misunderstood, isolated – very similar to previous characters such as Sherlock Holmes and Khan from Star Trek. That is not to take away from what is a very good and convincing performance, however I was not completely moved by him. At one point I was mentally comparing him to Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, not something that should be happening. Going into the film I was a big fan of the whole cast, and none of them have done their reputations any harm in this film. Knightly, playing Turing’s closest colleague Joan Clarke, was solid but unspectacular. She had the post British accent completely nailed down which was a fantastic feat, but other than that there’s nothing in this film that is of serious note.

The directing by Morten Tyldum is of a good standard. The main good point for me was the occasional cut scenes put into the film. It could have been easy to forget to remind people that there’s a war going on and focus solely on Turing and his machine – but Tyldum drops the occasional bit of film showing us what’s happening outside, and that’s vitally important because otherwise people would have forgot (it sounds stupid, but they would have).

I honestly didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. I’ve seen so many old fashioned, historic films that I expected this to be just another one, but there’s something about it that makes it better than the rest. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this is the only old Britain film that I would half think about watching again!

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