Alan Turing and company race to break Germany’s encrypted coded messages in The Imitation Game.
I can just picture all of the Academy Award nominations this film is going to get. It has pretty much all of the necessary ingredients for an Oscar winner. It has great performances, a good script, and it targets an older audience (like the Academy voters). Plus, extra points for being a historical and tragic true story. The Imitation Game is definitely going to get award recognition, and rightfully so.
The Academy has a hard-on for these kinds of movies. You know them well. You see them every so often; the movies based on The Holocaust are a great example. Kate Winslet won an Oscar for the wrong movie because of the historical nature of The Reader. Just think of all of the true stories or historical films that have won Best Picture. 12 Years a Slave, Argo, A Beautiful Mind, Gandhi, The King’s Speech, and Schindler’s List. I’m not arguing that these movies didn’t deserve to win; I’m just saying that the voters love historical films. I probably won’t be wrong about The Imitation Game either.
The Imitation Game stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the mastermind behind helping MI6 decode the Nazi communications during WWII. And that is pretty much the story of the movie. Turing is a mathmetician who loves solving puzzles, so he wants to build his own machine to break the Nazi’s communications that were changing every 24 hours. The encryption was nearly impossible to crack. It really is a terrific story that not many people knew about; at least until long after his death.
This is a tragic story because Turing wasn’t recognized as a war hero as he should have been, he was seen for his homosexuality (which at the time was a crime). The story is definitely compelling but it was told in a rather unique way. The movie begins post-war with a break-in at Turing’s apartment, which begins one detective’s drive to figure out what Turing is hiding. While that is going on, you get the real story. Alan Turing interviews for a job at now-famous Bletchley Park to try and crack Enigma, the Nazi machine used for coding messages. After a hilarious interview with “by-the-book” Commander Denniston (Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance), a team is eventually set up to try and crack Enigma. And all while this extremely interesting story is happening, there are flashbacks to Turing as young boy in school. The main story is very strong, while the other two are not as good. The flashbacks work to try and explain the things Turing is doing, which mostly works, but it is the way the story keeps jumping around that lessens the effect.
The acting in this movie is top-notch. Cumberbatch really shines through. Holy crap, that man can act. I always knew he could. I’ve seen most of his work. As Turing, he has so many layers he gets to show and he perfects them all. He hits the dramatic and emotional scenes expertly as well. If you’ve seen him in BBC’s Sherlock, you will see many familiar traits between Holmes and Turing. They both are brilliant; more brilliant than everyone they come into contact with and they know it. And they aren’t shy about it. But he adds a lot more to the character to really make it unique. All of the actors who were on the team for cracking Enigma were all very good.
Keira Knightley is doing the best work of her career this year. First she was excellent in Begin Again, and now she is even better here as Joan Clarke. Her relationship and bond with Turing is one of the film’s high points. It isn’t flashy; it is subtle. Their chemistry is subtle as well. Cumberbatch and Knightley work great off of one another. Clarke is an extremely smart character who connects with Turing because she is like him. She may not be as much of an “odd duck” as him, but she knows what it is like to be an outsider. She’s a smart woman working in a man’s world (at the time) and they help each other every step of the way.
The rest of the team is strong. Allen Leech and Matthew Beard are solid in their roles, especially towards the end of the film. But Matthew Goode is fantastic in this film. I haven’t been a huge fan of his thus far. I saw him in some random romantic comedy which I loathed and then I saw him as Ozymandias in Watchmen. I wasn’t exactly impressed. But, I am now officially impressed. He played his character very well. Charles Dance is always good and there is no change here. And Mark Strong was very good once again in a more limited role.
Adding even more weight to The Imitation Game is Alexandre Desplat. Desplat is becoming much more well known now, as he has done tremendous work on many films over the past several years. He has left an impression on the films I have seen where his work is present. He has done the musical score on films like Argo, The King’s Speech, Zero Dark Thirty, The Ides of March, and The Ghost Writer. He’s been nominated for an Oscar six times total, and I see no reason why he wouldn’t make this upcoming award season the seventh. His work in The Imitation Game is strong and definitely makes you feel some feelings.
The best scene in the entire film comes after Turing finally breaks the code and they start decoding all the messages. The entire team realize that an American military ship is about to be attacked and they have time to prevent it. They can warn someone and save at least hundreds of lives, but Turing realizes that doing so would reveal to the Germans that the British have broken the code. This scene was amazing and holds a lot of weight. What do you do in that situation? Save innocent lives or allow the attack to prevent the Germans from knowing they cracked Enigma. It’s a very heavy decision and you can feel the tension and the weight of the decision as they do. Who has the right to play God in this instance? Very emotional scene there.
I only have a few gripes with the film. The flashback sequence and the post-war investigation sequence are no where near as strong as the decoding storyline. It may just be how they jumped around frantically from story to story, but it took a little away from the film itself. A random Soviet spy story was kind of thrown in and didn’t really add much to the story. Even though it led to some great scenes, the whole Detective Nock (Rory Kinnear) investigation bit fell a bit flat. And lastly, how Turing broke the code came to him by convenience. I have no idea how it actually happened in real life (and it may have happened that way) but it felt a little too convenient for a film like this. Not huge gripes; just minor flaws.
All in all, The Imitation Game is a terrific film. It will undoubtedly get nominated for its fair share of Academy Awards this season and it may even take home the big prize for Best Picture. Boyhood is the best movie of the year. There isn’t much argument there. But it is a small film and it might be a little too artistic and indie for the Oscars to recognize it with the win. The only other film that could take home the prize, besides Selma (which I have yet to see), is Birdman. That one is a little too creative and artistic in its own right. Plus, it’s really weird as well. The Imitation Game is strong. It has a good production company behind it and the voters love historical movies based on true stories. It has just a good of chance as any to take home the big prize. The Imitation Game isn’t without its flaws but due to the amazing performance by Benedict Cumberbatch, this is one of the year’s best films and it shouldn’t be missed.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing
Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke
Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander
Mark Strong as Major General Stewart Menzies
Charles Dance as Commander Alastair Denniston
Allen Leech as John Cairncross
Matthew Beard as Peter Hilton
Rory Kinnear as Detective Nock
WHAT I LIKED:
+: Benedict Cumberbatch brings it all in an award-worthy performance. I had no idea he could act this well. He showcases it all. He shows the unique layers to an odd character with all of the emotions along the way. He deserves every bit of recognition he gets.
+: The rest of the performances were great as well. Keira Knightley brought her A-game, along with Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, and the rest of the cast. Not a bad performance to be found.
+: Alexandre Desplat’s moving score.
+: Great chemistry between actors.
+: A great story that hit all the necessary emotional moments.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:
-: The frantic jumping between three different years to tell the story. I didn’t mind the flashbacks but they didn’t have to jump as abruptly as they did.
-: The Detective Nock story fell a little flat (even if it led to some of the best scenes)
-: Plot conveniences