Oscar Nominee: The Imitation Game

Just in time for the Oscars, Andrew reviews The Imitation Game. 

"I will find Kirk and I will
kill him with this machine."
The historical dramatization of British cryptanalyst Alan Turing (played rather effectively by the overexposed Benedict Cumberbatch) and his efforts to secretly crack the Nazi Enigma code during World War II is both an engaging thriller and touching character study about one of humankind’s greatest inventors. Based on the historical text Alan Turing: The Enigma by Alan Hodges, The Imitation Game brings to light the insurmountable secret mission undertaken by Turing and his crew. In a race against time as soldiers battle behind enemy lines, Turing must decode the Nazi communication device if any hopes to win the war are to be realized. In so doing, he invented the world’s first computer, but the problem was revealing its inception jeopardizes the war effort and Turing was thus forced to take a vow of silence on the matter.

As a historical drama, The Imitation Game falls alongside British films like The King’s Speech or Philomena, where historians are quick to assail the film’s historical accuracy. In the case of The Imitation Game, most have taken umbrage with the portrayal of his homosexuality and overplaying the brief relationship with fellow cryptanalyst and one-time fiancée Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightley). Much like Philomena and the American based Dallas Buyers Club, the film also tends towards gay tolerance as Turing finds himself unfairly persecuted for his orientation with the scandal overshadowing his intellectual contributions to the war effort. Worse still, would you believe there was a time when Great Britain enforced chemical castration drugs which ultimately lead to Turing’s untimely death? Tantamount to murder, the film’s producers and leading star Benedict Cumberbatch have since launched a campaign aimed at the British government and the Royal family, demanding a formal pardon of some 49,000 gay men convicted under the same law that destroyed one of the world’s greatest inventors.

"Oh my dear.
You need to stop fooling yourself.
There is only one Khan and
he stars on Fantasy Island."
Human rights crusades aside, Benedict Cumberbatch gives a fantastic performance as Turing, imbuing the man with fragility and tragedy contrasted by his intellectual prowess. From the awkward gait and posture to his nervous, soft spoken voice, Mr. Cumberbatch makes Turing an eccentric figure who doesn’t fit in but makes him perfect for the mission at hand. Equally strong is Kiera Knightley as the one woman in his life who falls in love with a man who isn’t sure how to love himself or share romantic love with the opposite sex. Visually, The Imitation Game is handsomely shot with desaturated gray hues and low contrast levels, placing the viewer back in time. If there is one gripe about the film’s technical merits, which are generally strong, The Imitation Game mixes newsreel footage of the war with CGI rendered battles that look a bit like a Playstation 3 game. A shame that the weakness of those battle scenes take away from the intensely committed drama happening in the inventor’s work shed.

While maybe not the Best Picture of the year (though it has been nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award) with artistic license that will rankle devoted history buffs, The Imitation Game is a solid period piece that younger viewers of this generation should absolutely see. While we take for granted the tide turning for the Second World War as well as our own current dependence on computers, it’s important to remember it would not be for this one awkward little man’s drive and intelligence, winning the War and inventing the personal computer might not have come to pass. Furthermore, in the still controversial social climate with regard to homosexuality, the film is a tragic denouncement of laws that drove brilliant inventors like Turing to his own demise. Whatever your stance on the man’s personal life is, you have to respect his undeniable contribution to human history and the amount of lives his invention saved from death.

-Andrew Kotwicki