"The greatest encryption device in history, the Germans use it for all communications, 159,000,000,000 possible combinations, unbreakable. Let me try and we'll know for sure."
If you had asked me a few days ago is 2014 a better year for films that 2013 I would have said no. However, having seen The Imitation Game I am most definitely thinking about possibly considering saying maybe.
The true story of Alan Turing and a team of cryptanalysts who led the charge to crack the German Enigma code that would help the allies to win World War 2. Along the way we learn more about a damaged individual whose secrets go far beyond British intelligence.
Though it may look as if Benedict Cumberbatch is playing his usual forte here as a genius who solves mysteries. But like the film, he may appear to be slick and smooth on the surface he actually is seen as a murky and frighteningly unconfident mathematician. Not only is this man working undercover for the British government he has to hide his true sexual identity, something that he would have been persecuted for at the time.
It would be easy for this film to become bogged down by the ultimately tragic end to Turing’s story. But instead it focusses more on the great achievement of this man, essential the inventor of the computer itself. It’s a celebration of his work. You’re reading this article online and you owe that to Alan Turing. To watch what he did and in the way that Cumberbatch portrays him you really become aware of his brilliance. As a debut for writing Graham Moore has a fairly spectacular debut with this fast paced, intelligent and elegant telling of this story. The dialogue is so quotable as well from ‘no matter how smart your are Enigma is smarter’ to ‘it takes a machine to beat a machine’. It all works brilliantly, at the very start of the film you hear to words ‘are you paying attention’ and from that moment it is impossible not to.
The performances of this film are just in another league, on the basis that they all work perfectly on their own and side-by-side. Cumberbatch gives a wonderful portrayal of a genius trying to solve a mystery who is himself a mystery. His performance anchors this film and it is a strong anchor. Charles Dance is back on top form following his rather disappointing performance in Dracula Untold, Matthew Goode does a superb job and his interaction with Turing is the kind of character development that really adds a beating heart to this film. It is great to see the people around him slowly warm to the unconventional and awkward Turing. Kiera Knightly also proves to be essential to the way this story develops so it’s a good thing that she gives a tender yet powerful performance here. On paper some of the characters may seem a bit one dimensional but they all come alive on screen.
The reason I really like this film is because it manages to balance both necessary elements to tell Turing’s story brilliantly. On the one hand this is a biopic, a good old fashioned adventure about cracking codes and feeling proud to be British and whatnot. But from another angle The Imitation Game is a thriller, pure and simple. This is the birth of artificial intelligence, and it likes to point out that fact. Due to the fact that Turing cannot openly express his sexuality he can only show emotion to this machine that he has created, so it causes some unlikely questions to come into light, like the Deckard conundrum from Blade Runner.
The narrative juggles three different time structures, from Turing’s school days, his work as a code-breaker and after the war to the more tragic side of these events. It deals with them very well and in a neatly intertwined way. The clear context can create a character that is so unreadable that you actually begin to question whether he could be a Soviet spy as the British government suspects.
Through an intelligent and thrilling mix of fascinating good-old-fashioned code breaking and bittersweet tragedy, The Imitation Game is a wonderful portrayal of a man ahead of his time in terms of personality and professionalism.