Review - The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game (2014), PG-13, 114 minutes - The Imitation Game is the type of film that seems to have been made especially for someone like me. Biopic? Check. Period piece set during World War II? Check. Benedict Cumberbatch leading a wonderful cast? Check. Educational (despite expected liberties in the story taken by Hollywood)? Check.

This film is based on the life of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), focusing particularly on his efforts to crack the German Enigma code during World War II. We're shown his social awkwardness and eccentricities as he is assigned to a team of mathematicians and crypt-analysts yet stubbornly works alone on the design of a machine that he believes is the only way that they will be able to crack Enigma within the daily time constraints (the Germans would re-key Enigma on a daily basis). Only after meeting and working with Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) does he learn how to better interact with his team, consisting of Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), John Cairncross (Allen Leech), Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard), and Jack Good (James Northcote). With their help he is able to build a working prototype of his machine. The only problem is that with all of the variables the 'Turing' machine has to work through it still isn't fast enough. As history shows, Turing and his team were successful in eventually cracking Enigma, a vital contribution to the end of World War II.

Another aspect of Turing's life that is touched upon in The Imitation Game is his homosexuality. Being the age I am (I'll turn 36 in a couple of months), this was not something that was actively mentioned in history class so this was a revelation to me. It really is heartbreaking that in the years after his groundbreaking achievements that his country - or the world for that matter - was so narrow minded. Homosexual activity was not just looked down upon, but was actually illegal in the United Kingdom at the time. In order to be placed on probation instead of serving jail time, he subjected himself to hormonal treatments designed to reduce his libido. The side effects of the treatments negatively affected his life and eventually helped lead to his committing suicide two years later.

I have little doubt that the portrayal of this story is not exactly how it actually occurred, but that doesn't take away from the fascinating story that it is. Cumberbatch's turn as Turing is excellent and Charles Dance (Commander Denniston), Mark Strong (Stewart Menzies), and Rory Kinnear (Detective Robert Nock) round out an engaging cast. The Imitation Game is a wonderful film that is both worthy of your time and the awards nominations that it is bound to receive.


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