Mathematician Alan Turing is invited to help crack the infamous Enigma code during World War Two.
Benedict Cumberbatch - Alan Turing
Keira Knightley - Joan Clarke
Matthew Goode - Hugh Alexander
Charles Dance - Commander Denniston
Mark Strong - Stewart Menzies
Here in Britain we love everything relating to spies and the intelligence world, whether it is fact or fiction. Just look at the character of James Bond and his status in the country for a clear example. This is probably true across the globe though, certainly for Scandinavia who constantly produce thrillers and mysteries. It was no surprise then that for Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One In) his first venture into English language cinema was the excellent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, based on the novel of the same name by John Le Carre. Following in his footsteps is Morten Tyldum, director of The Imitation Game his first venture into English language cinema, this time a true story of the intelligence world. Tyldum's previous work Headhunters a blackly comical thriller that was both slick and sick could not be further in style from The Imitation Game, a film that harkens back to traditional British cinema with an emotional and breathtaking story that will grip you throughout and strong performances from a spectacular cast. Although it lacks the oomph of Headhunters, it is a solid film with an important story to tell that will leave you breathless at the end.
It is shocking, I would even go as far to say horrifying, that the story of Alan Turing, the man at the centre of this film, is not more known. Not only did Turing save millions of lives during the war, a story that is explored in this film, but he also contributed massively to technology, especially computer science, often being considered as one of the founding fathers of artificial intelligence. A truly remarkable figure of course a film was going to tell his story one day, and that film is the wonderful Imitation Game. Telling his story was certainly a struggle though as the nature of his work during the war was highly secretive, as was his private life meaning little is known about his story. However, the film has been made based on Andrew Hodges' insightful book and has dealt well with the little information available staying true to the known facts.
Turing's story really is quite remarkable and is well-told in the film which balances well his personal life and his work with the intelligence services. The story is both engrossing and disturbing at the same time, and really quite emotional throughout. We are gripped by the thriller aspects surrounding the spies and code-breaking that is going on in the huts, and although we know the history we are constantly on the edge of our seats wondering if he is going to break the infamous code. Surrounding this impeccable thriller is an emotional complexity, the part that disturbs us. Turing could easily be described as a tragic figure, a fallen hero in history who was treated horrifically by the country he helped save because of his homosexuality, leading to devastating consequences. Britain's treatment of Turing was truly shocking, unforgivable, and should not be ignored and forgotten as it has been in history, this film notes this. Although there could have been, and should have been, more about his personal life it still drives much of the film making it incredibly emotional, especially at the end which will leave you breathless in shock and emotion with tears filling your eyes.
One of the reasons that the film is so emotional is because despite his quite frankly annoying personality at times, Turing is a character we can easily engage with and feel for thanks to the wonderful performance from Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch was of course the only actor who could play Turing, a genius who struggles socially but through one friend finds a way to connect with the world, much like Sherlock. Cumberbatch could easily have played Turing like Sherlock, but thankfully he doesn't. Not much is known about Turing's personality, we don't even know what he sounds like. However, Cumberbatch really brings him to life with an outstanding performance that is tender, smart and heartbreakingly good. His portrayal of Turing is exactly what I would expect what the man would have been like in real life, and we really connect with his character and want to go on this journey with him. This only makes the ending more tragic. Matching Cumberbatch's performance is Keira Knightley, an actress who you can normally tell is acting but in this film is just wonderful as Joan Clarke, the woman who brings out the best in Turing and also provides much of the comedy. Matthew Goode, Mark Strong and Charles Dance also give solid performances as part of a very fine cast.
Although this film is not outstanding with more focus on his personal life being needed, it is an achievement that harkens back to traditional British films with its old-fashioned style and feel. Everything about it is solid and enjoyable, with some brilliant performances, especially from Cumberbatch who deserves nominations and awards for his tender performance that holds the film together. His portrayal of Turing allows us to engage deeply with the film, be even more gripped by the story and feel our hearts break at the tragic ending. An important story to be told, thankfully it has been told well.