Oscar season is now upon us and pushing itself forward is The Imitation Game, a biopic about Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
The film covers three periods in Turing’s life; his first formative friendship during his childhood, his work as a code breaker at Bletchley Park during World War 2 and his cruel treatment by the law in his later years. These are interwoven to give us a portrait of one of history’s most influential people and yet one of the least well-known.
Cumberbatch is no stranger to the role of arrogant genius, and as fans of the BBC TV series Sherlock will expect, he does it extremely well. However, with the role of Turing, Cumberbatch brings a vulnerability and innocence to the character that transforms him on the screen. It is a towering performance and one which anchors the entire film, which is fortunate because the rest of the film is not nearly as exceptional.
Leading the supporting cast are Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode, playing fellow genius’ Joan Clarke and Hugh Alexander. They both put in decent performances but are at their best when bouncing off of Cumberbatch. The special effects are not that special and sometimes look like they’ve been ripped straight out of a History Channel documentary. Fine for TV but not for a wide release movie. The script itself is decent but not especially impressive and at times does a Spiderman in beating you over the head with the same message over and over again.
Which is a shame because the story itself is so incredible that I’m not sure this excess was needed. For those unfamiliar with Turing’s story, and I won’t spoil anything in this review, the incredible difference he made and his terrible treatment afterwards is powerful enough without making it so obvious. For those of us who do know something of Turing’s history….well….
There has been some controversy over the accuracy of the film and as someone with a passing acquaintance with the story, I can see where liberties have been taken. Cumberbatch plays Turing here as someone firmly on the Autistic spectrum, which I’m not sure is fair and the film plays liberally with the facts in places and uses them to underline it’s beat you over the head message. That said, given how the likes of The Monuments Men and U-571 turned out, we should probably be glad he wasn’t written as an American.
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