Thursday, January 01, 2015

FILM REVIEW: The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game is the cinematic adaptation of Andrew Hodges' Alan Turing: The Enigma,            a biography of the British mathematical prodigy who was primarily responsible for breaking the supposedly unbreakable Enigma code used by the Germans in World War II, thus shortening the war and saving millions of lives. Turing was also a gay man and he was persecuted by his government after the war when his sexual orientation became known to the authorities, forced to undergo hormonal treatment and eventually he died (presumably by his own hand, intentionally) at the tender age of 41. Turing is played in the film by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness, Sherlock, August: Osage County). Cumberbatch's main co-star in the film is Keira Knightley.

The film is divided into three time lines: one thread takes place between the Great Wars when Alan Turing is attending a private boys' boarding school where the shy, awkward Alan is tormented by most of the boys but feels an intense bond with another boy named Christopher. Another thread (the main one) takes place at the height of World War II when Britain is slowly being starved to death by the Axis forces' blockade and survival will only occur if some way can be found to crack the German's Enigma code. The third thread takes place in the early 1950's during the early Cold War era when homosexuality was not only considered a taboo in British society but also treated by authorities as a dangerous perversion which should be criminalized.

The screenplay deftly cuts between the three threads to maximize the dramatic effect of each. The vast majority of screen time is spent on the World War II events, which are absolutely enthralling because even though we know The Good Guys win the war, we don't know the details of how they won.

This thread is also the best part of the film because it involves the most interaction between the heavy-hitting actors in the film: Cumberbatch and Knightley (of course) and Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Matthew Goode (The Good Wide) and Mark Strong (Zero Dark Thirty). However, Cumberbatch is clearly the lead actor and is almost every scene of the film (except the boarding school scenes, of course).

This is a very good thing, because Cumberbatch is mesmerizing to watch, depicting Turing as a mathematical genius who is clearly somewhere on the Asperger spectrum with his difficulty in connecting with other humans, even other people who are also extremely intelligent and accomplished puzzle solvers. Even though Turing is a genius, he can't break the Enigma code by himself, and the story of how the team at Bletchley Park was able to achieve the impossible by working together is extremely compelling.

The fact that after the war everyone who was involved in the Bletchley Park project was sworn to secrecy and how Turing was mistreated by his government because of society's bigoted beliefs about his sexuality are heartbreaking and elevate The Imitation Game far above mere entertainment.

Title: The Imitation Game.
Director: Morten Tyldum.
Running Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking.
Release Date: December 25, 2014.
Viewing Date: December 26, 2014.

Writing: A.
Acting: A+.
Visuals: A-.
Impact: A+.

Overall Grade: A (4.083/4.0).

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