Dr. Donna Copeland’s
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH KEIRA KNIGHTLEY MARK STRONG CHARLES DANCE
THE IMITATION GAME
Winning the Toronto International Film Festival award proved to be a good omen for 12 Years a Slave, The Kings Speech and Slumdog Millionaire, as they went on to win best picture at the Academy Awards. The Imitation Game is based on the extraordinary true story of mathematician Alan Turing, whom Winston Churchill acknowledged contributed more than any other individual to winning the war. It isn’t just a story about how one brilliant man created a decoder to help stop Hitler, it’s also about the “shameful, disgraceful part of our history”, said Cumberbatch, who will likely be up for a best actor nomination. What The Imitation Game, distributed by The Weinstein Company, won’t get is a best director nomination, which might just lose it the best picture game.
Things were bleak in 1939; Britain was losing the war to Germany, largely because of its inability to crack the Enigma code the Nazis were using to communicate via radio. Alan Turing explained to the War Department that he didn’t need them; it was the war itself that needed him. He was unpopular the moment he met with Commander Denniston (Dance), who worked under Churchill; but Turing was eventually put in charge of building an enormous machine that be believed would decode the messages and help England win World War II. Turing was also a homosexual, which, during that time period, was illegal. Stewart Menzies (Strong) said to Turing that he wished the spies in his department were as good at keeping secrets as he.
Don’t let the similarities between A Beautiful Mind’s Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly’s performance detract from what Cumberbatch and Knightley do here, although there are many comparisons. The Imitation Game isn’t an agenda film, but it does have a point to make, a pledge to offer, and, as Cumberbatch points out regarding Turing’s Royal Pardon decades after his death, "The only person who should be pardoning anybody is him” (Turing). Cumberbatch’s performance might not be able to rival that of Michael Keaton’s showy Birdman or the body and facial contortions of Eddie Redmayne’s Stephen Hawking—two who will certainly be his fellow nominees. However, Cumberbatch’s popularity, his consistently great work and this being his best performance will certainly land him in the race.
Cumberbatch gives a detailed, subtle and often internalized performance as Turing, who suffered with deep, inner struggle and lifelong pain. He dedicated himself to a country that turned on him after they got what they needed from him. It’s a powerful role and Cumberbatch (August Osage County, The Hobbit) quietly devours every scene and frame. Oscar nominee Keira Knightley (Begin Again, Laggies), also turns in another terrific performance. In one scene, her character delivers a beautiful and almost heartbreaking –speech about the type of marriage she and Turing might have; seconds later, her mood has changed, and she calls Turing a monster. It’s a scene-stealer for the actress and should land her a supporting actress nomination. Director Morten Tyldum doesn’t inject the type of creative cinematic ability into this pretty standard script that it might have deserved; this one is by the numbers. That will make this “agreeable” film a difficult sell to represent the year’s “best film.” “The people no one thinks anything of are the ones that do things no one can imagine.” It’s that beautiful sentiment that should echo louder than any award it receives; thankfully, it’s quoted in the film.
Final Thought – Cumberbatch gives a performance that will stay with you after the last frame.
By: Dustin Chase
The highly anticipated Imitation Game delivers in both entertainment and educational value. It tells the story of the breaking of the German Enigma Code during WWII. Not only does this involve the intrigue of a spy story, it gives an account of all the frustration and roadblocks Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) had to endure to pull it off. Norwegian director Morten Tyldum (The Headhunters) is gifted in assimilating related sub-plots into a beautifully crafted, reasoned whole. Of course, in this respect the novelist Andrew Hodges and screenplay writer Graham Moore, deserve part of the credit.
They tell the story about shy, socially awkward Turing in Great Britain who was fascinated by puzzles, particularly crossword puzzles, from a young age, and became expert at making and deciphering codes. He was an odd child (perhaps had Asperger Syndrome in the autism spectrum disorders, characterized by difficulties in social interactions and communication, along with compulsive interests and behaviors, but sometimes with brilliance of mind), and suffered from teasing and discrimination all his life. To make matters worse for him, he was attracted to men. Despite these drawbacks, he was supremely self-confident in his abilities, and never doubted his success in creating a machine (a prototype of the computer) that would translate Enigma into English. Also despite his social difficulties, he managed to head up a team of scientists who ended up being loyal to him during critical times when the English government threatened to shut down his operation.
The group included one woman, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), who got the job by working a crossword puzzle in record time. (This was the task Turing used to select his team.) It also included Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), who was in charge of the team before Turing managed to wrest it from him by enlisting Churchill’s support, much to the frustration of not only Alexander, but two superiors, Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) and Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong) as well.
The threats to the operation were unbelievable, and included Joan’s parents thinking her job was inappropriate for a woman and calling her back home, Denniston’s lack of confidence in Turing and his accusations of Turing being a Soviet spy, the insertion of an actual double agent into the team, financial support, and homophobia, just to name some. While the team was ultimately successful in breaking the Enigma code, it was at a dear cost to Turing personally.
All in all, The Imitation Game is an interesting, exciting, thriller with outstanding performances from Cumberbatch, Knightley, Goode, Dance, and Strong. The music by Alexander Desplat and cinematography by Oscar Faura give it the boost necessary for a top-notch movie, along with Tyldum’s direction.
By Donna R. Copeland