I really didn’t know what to expect going into The Imitation Game. I had seen positive reviews and have never heard bad things said about Sir King Lord Benedict Cumberbatch, but regarding the movie I was uncertain. Well, consider me certain now. The movie is PHENOMENAL, with a capital “P” (actually with a capital everything). As awards season ramps up, director Morten Tyldum has thrown my personal film rankings for the year into disarray, in the best way possible.
Should I pay to see it?
Before getting into the acting and filmmaking, let it be said that Alan Turing’s story is simply more and more remarkable as I continue to think about it. For those not in the know (and that was everyone for decades), Turing was a tormented mathematical genius, responsible for cracking the Germans’ Enigma machine and thus shortening World War II by at least two years. For real.
As a result, this is a war movie that takes place away from the battles and bloodshed, though Tyldum does fantastic work in the brief snapshots of U-boats and bombings and the like. This may sound unappealing to many people who thirst for stories of strong and noble heroes, but Turing’s story is truly incredible — worthy of awe.
Is Benedict a (national) treasure?
If only he were ours, America! A true treasure, indeed.
He has of course been winning the world over for a few years now, but this performance should help elevate him to superstar status, especially if he is able to pull in some of the major awards in the coming weeks and months. Turing was at the same time painfully blunt or awkward and deeply complex, and Cumberbatch taps into these in perfectly balanced amounts. I will touch more on the film’s overall balance later, but suffice to say that the supremely talented actor brings out Turing’s intelligence and social deficits and secrets in effective and moving manners.
Cumberbatch shows no signs of stopping his ascent to cinematic world domination, and that is just fine by me.
Is Alan Turing’s story fascinating and under-appreciated?
Yes, I already touched on this, and yes it is worthy of further emphasis.
Turing’s contributions facilitated not only the end of a brutal war but also crucial advances in the world of computer technology. Despite all of his flaws — both real and imagined by the British government of the time — Turing was a man who significantly changed the course of history multiple times. Though he died prematurely over 60 years ago, his story and his work remain relevant today. He was both a pioneer of artificial intelligence and a victim of homophobic legislation, and the film at least helps to remind us just how connected our histories can be.
Is Tyldum’s direction well-balanced as he jumps from point to point in Turing’s troubled life?
The film jumps between Turing’s childhood, prime, and post-war struggles, but Tyldum manages to do so without allowing any portion to feel unnecessary or overwhelming. It’s also worth noting that Alex Lawther does a fantastic job as the younger form of Turing, making the flashbacks quite compelling.
By bouncing around time, Tyldum provides a full and rich version of Turing’s story, rather than one overly focused on his wartime triumphs. Of course watching him fight Enigma is tense and thrilling, but Turing’s timeline necessitates attention being paid to his times as both a troubled youth and a persecuted professor. Any of the three stories could make a wonderful movie on its own, but Tyldum deftly weaves elements of each throughout the film, making it clear that just how much more there was to Alan Turing than breaking Enigma.
Do the movie and its stars deserve big awards and trophies and love?
Love, of course.
Awards? It’s hard to predict the future, but as of right now The Imitation Game sits rather firmly at or near the top of my list. Not that you care much, but for me it’s a battle between this winner, Birdman, and Boyhood for the year’s top film. Of course, arguments can be made for others like Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything, and Selma (I must admit I have not seen Selma yet, so forgive my lack of opinion on the film or David Oyelowo as candidates.). In my small and normal mind, though, The Imitation Game is more than deserving of a Golden Globe victory and beyond.
In terms of the players, Cumberbatch is my frontrunner, though once again other solid contenders would be deserving. Michael Keaton, Ralph Fiennes, Eddie Redmayne, and Oyewolo all stand poised for the biggest victories of their respective careers. I really do hope Benedict gets a GG or Oscar, but whoever wins will certainly be worthy.
Keira Knightley also stands out as Joan Clarke, Turing’s close friend and pseudo-lover, though I’m not sure if she does enough to take home any of the year’s big prizes. This breaks my heart, which contains endless love for Keira. Matthew Goode (Watchmen) does subtle but strong work, though once again probably not enough to garner any trophies.
In conclusion, see the freakin’ movie! We owe it to history.