The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum, 2014)

Every so often I see a new film that absolutely blows my socks off, where the storyline sits perfectly with my mood and I get totally enthralled in the joyous and rare occasion of seeing what could be one of my favourite films of all time. The Imitation Game was one of those films.

It is a film in three intertwined parts, covering three key periods of Alan Turing’s life: the schooldays in which Alex Lawther plays a young Turing, complete with serious bullying and a growing fondness of his best friend Christopher; the war years, where he devises and eventually builds the Turing machine that eventually cracks the Enigma code (sorry, spoiler alert!); and the early 1960s when he is investigated and prosecuted for his homosexuality. All three are critical to giving us the full picture of Turing throughout his life.

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Cumberbatch’s ability to transform himself and become his subject is uncanny, perhaps rivalled only by Michael Sheen by today’s younger actors for chameleon-like abilities. Having seen him in so many different roles (for range you can compare his performance as Smaug in the current Hobbit trilogy to his powerful turn in 12 Years A Slave), he never ceases to amaze me as to how there’s such little crossover between his characters. And so it is here: a totally unique take on a totally unique person.

The scenes during which the machine is developed and successfully executed is the real joy to behold. The take on Turing has no elements of a stereotypical cinema autism sufferer; this tale is set in the real world and without any intentional throwaway punchlines. People with severe autism often find themselves – intentionally or not – having disconnected exchanges with others in real life that to outsiders seem very hilarious, though the comedy here is brought to life by the chemistry with his on-screen companions. Perhaps the best example of this was the Armed Forces interview with Charles Dance, which almost completely ruins Turing’s chances of taking part in the war efforts. I won’t explain it, but it is certainly a highlight.

I imagine the film will come under criticism from people accusing it of being a slightly jingoistic, self-appreciating celebration of how great Great Britain really was back in the day. Very little screen time is given to even mentioning any other country’s war efforts. The truth is that Britain really were the only nation involved with the Turing machines and cracking Enigma, but this film isn’t about a war but about a man. In any case, it’s not only a celebration of a fantastic collaborative effort of some of the greatest minds of a generation, but also a celebration of a time when it was okay to be a proud Brit; when we had plenty to be proud of on a global scale. And jolly good it was too.

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I’d love to contribute some criticism of it and counter balance why I think negative aspects are acceptable, but nothing springs to mind. The support cast (Keira Knightley, Martin Strong, Charles Dance) were phenomenal, and ensured this didn’t turn into a one-man-show. The music was truly sublime and fitted the mood well. There really wasn’t anything to say that could be considered negative.

Please, do yourself a favour. Watch this film.

The Imitation Game is released in UK cinemas on 14th November and in the USA on 21st November.

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