Classic Movie Review: The Imitation Game (2014)

Posted: April 4, 2015 in Drama
Tags: ,

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In 1939, Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) of the Royal Navy wants to put together a team to break the Nazis Enigma code.  College Professor Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch)   Turing almost fails the interview, but is hired by Denniston.  Also on the team are Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) John Carincross (Allen Leech) Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard) and Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong) of MI6, the British Intelligence Agency.  Turing didn’t like working with others and petitioned none other than Winston Churchill himself to be in charge of the team.  Turing fires two linguists and hires mathematician Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightly) to join his team. All the other codebreakers want to break the code manually, but Turing wants to build a machine to break the code.  Denniston wants to get rid of Turing, and hears there’s a Russian double agent in the codebreaker group, and launches an investigation to find out if Turing is a spy for the Russians.  Turing is hiding something, which is uncovered after the war.  Does Turing’s machine break the code in time to help the Allies win the war?  What is Alan Turing’s secret?

This is an excellent movie, the story is clearly and economically told.  Turing is a remarkable man who built a computer at a time when people were using pencil and paper.  Turing is living a dual life in more ways than one, and he needed to keep both lives secret.  The movie does an excellent job of exposing the fissures within the codebreaking team, and the hardships facing England at the time.  The fact that Turing hired Joan Clarke, a woman, at a time when women weren’t considered for such positions is noteworthy, and the film highlights this achievement. What happened to Turing after the war is shameful, and that is perhaps the most powerful part of the film.

The acting is superb. Cumberbatch gives Turing a stuttering, stammering manner which befits Turing’s shyness, which was often mistaken for standoffishness. Cumberbatch richly deserved the nomination, and could have easily won the best actor Academy Award.  Charles Dance is excellent as Commander Dennison, who is a by the book Navy officer and is openly contemptuous of Turing’s outside the box thinking.  Mark Strong also gives a standout performance as the MI6 agent who helps Turing navigate his way through military and civilian leadership. Knightly is the revelation here, when I first heard that she was in this movie, I thought she was in way over her head, but she handled a complex role of a trailblazing woman quite nicely.

The direction is good.  The pacing is excellent, the flashbacks to Turing’s school days, and then forward to the post war days are excellently placed.

The Imitation Game:  The real thing.

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