One of World War Two's greatest battles took place far from the battlefields -- and its greatest hero wound up unpraised, and worse, after it was done. The Imitation Game is a very unusual, dramatic, and gripping war story revolving around mathematics and a disturbed genius.
The Imitation Game takes place during three different times. In 1940s England, Detective Nock (Rory Kinnear) believes mathematics professor Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is hiding something and decides to investigate him. In the 1920s, we see a young Turing (played by Alex Lawther) at boarding school, where his run-ins with bullies and friendship with a classmate go a long way in showing what he'll become as an adult. And during WW2 (when the bulk of the film is set), Turing is brought in for a top-secret mission: breaking a seemingly unbreakable German code called Enigma, which resets every morning.
Saying that Turing is not well liked during his mission is an understatement. He is socially awkward, lacks understanding of basic human interactions, and is indifferent to the feelings of others. (Fans of The Big Bang Theory will see a lot of Sheldon Cooper in Cumberbatch's performance.) Turing ignores and goes over the head of his boss Commander Denniston (Charles Dance), getting himself put in charge of the project -- and firing half the people there. While others want to try and crack the codes manually, Turing focuses on building a computer (which he names "Christopher") that will crack the code -- even though progress is slow-going, and Christopher costs a hundred thousand pounds. Turing also works covertly with Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) since, at the time, women weren't supposed to work alongside men, even though she's a mathematical genius. And Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong) is a MI-6 secret agent who tolerates Turing more than the rest.
While The Imitation Game mainly revolves around the mathematicians out to break the code, the movie really belongs to Benedict Cumberbatch. His Alan Turing is the key and center to the whole film -- and Cumberbatch delivers an amazing performance. He makes it quite easy to see why people both hate Turing and think he's the key to solving a seemingly impossible task. While the movie contrasts the death and struggles of most Englishmen with the more peaceful, yet pressured life of the geniuses, things get quite morally ambiguous as the film continues. And the ending will have you mourning Turing decades after he passed away. The Imitation Game is an excellent drama that takes on a secret, intellectual struggle during the darkest days of war -- and the personal struggled that went along with it.
Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch