Cinéaste 005: The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game, Alan Turing, Film, Film Review, Bramble & Thorn
I know it's not ordinary. But who ever loved ordinary?
Title: The Imitation Game
Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, Allen Leech, Matthew Goode
Synopsis: Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain's top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

The Imitation Game, Alan Turing, Film, Film Review, Bramble & Thorn
In my quest to watch all Best Picture nominees before the Oscars at the end of the month, I found myself watching The Imitation Game on a rainy Saturday afternoon. And look, it was fine. Enjoyable, even. I adore Kiera Knightley, and I think Benedict Cumberbatch is generally good in everything he's in. Even Charles Dance (that's Tywin Lannister for you Game of Thrones fans) made an appearance. But oh boy, does this film smack of Oscar bait. The narrative touches on elements that were taboo or unexplored at the time the film was set, such as Aspergers and homosexuality, which really serves only to make the viewer feel artificially superior because we - in 2015 - understand these themes, unlike the 'stupid' people in the 1950's. It's a tragic story to be sure, but is told in a very formulaic manner.

The Imitation Game, Alan Turing, Film, Film Review, Bramble & Thorn
Having said that, this was generally a good film set during World War II. There's not really any new ground covered here, however it does serve to bring attention to a group of people, led by Alan Turing (Cumberbatch), who ultimately played a large role in the outcome of the war. His code-breakers are essentially in a race against time to break Enigma, the Nazi's code to reading encrypted messages that changes every 24 hours at midnight. An interesting idea this is somewhat diminished by a weak script.

The Imitation Game, Alan Turing, Film, Film Review, Bramble & Thorn

As the film announces at the start, it based on a true story. Many elements of story are true, and to get so much history into a film things have to be condensed. Unfortunately, unnecessarily inaccurate things were portrayed which didn't save any time. For example, Turing mutters under his breath so most audiences will not notice, that the Poles made the first crucial breakthrough. By the start of the war, the Poles (led by Marian Rejewski) had been breaking Enigma for over six years and built the first machine, called a "bomba" in 1938. The film is correct in showing that Turing's genius was using known words from the coded messages to reduce the myriad of possibilities. This idea happened in 1939 and so he started from the outset to design the British "bombes" to use this method, not after they had been running for months. For a historical film, it would have been nice to see a little more attention to detail.

The Imitation Game, Alan Turing, Film, Film Review, Bramble & Thorn
Despite these problems, it was a nice film to watch. The acting was fantastic, the score beautiful, and the costumes and set lovely to look at. Although this is not a masterpiece, it is worth a view to learn a little more about an extraordinary man in a fascinating period of time.

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