The Imitation Game is the latest biopic to hit the theaters. Directed by Morten Tyldum and based off of Andrew Hodges’ novel, Alan Turing: The Enigma, the film explores the life of the English mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his attempts to break Nazi Germany’s Enigma code during World War II. The film follows pivotal times in Turing’s life, including his unhappy years as an adolescent in boarding school, his creation of the Bombe (a decoder), and, later, his conviction due to his sexuality.
The importance of Turing’s work is undeniable. His creation of the Bombe — which is essentially a crude version of today’s computers — is hypothesized to have shortened the war by two years as well as to have saved approximately fourteen million lives. Yet, the brilliance of this man was never truly appreciated because the government kept his work secret for 50 years. Upon the discovery of his sexuality, the UK government, as an alternative to imprisonment, fed him hormonal drugs as a form of chemical castrations, breaking down his body and mind. He inevitably committed suicide by taking a bite out of an apple filled with cyanide. The Queen of England did not even officially pardon him until 2013. Thankfully, Tyldum does not focus on Turing’s torturous final years, but rather dwells on his time in Buckinghamshire, where he decodes Enigma.
Cumberbatch’s performance was nothing short of phenomenal. Although he plays the oh-so-Academy-approved stuttering eccentric who has difficulty picking up on social cues, Cumberbatch executes this trope genuinely, making his performance more likable than others. Perhaps it’s Cumberbatch’s innate gawkiness that makes his performance and his character’s smug egotism more forgivable. However, it is Turing’s hubris that causes Alastair Dennison, (Charles Dance — or Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones) his boss, to attempt to fire him throughout the movie.
The film is just as much about the thrill of Turing decoding Enigma as it is about his relationships with his co-stars. Turing’s team includes Hugh (Matthew Goods), John (Allen Leech), Peter (Matthew Bear), and the brilliant Joan Clarke (Keira Knightly). At times the film can feel generic, but this is because of Turing and Clarke’s relationship and how she has to teach him how to “play nice.”
The direction of the film does not deserve much praise. Tyldum overuses poorly executed CGI in the war scenes as well as black-and-white newsreel footage and time cards to reinforce the period piece aspect of the film.
Akin to Stephen Hawking’s biopic, The Theory of Everything, and King George VI’s biopic, The King’s Speech, The Imitation Game is an amalgam of history, human tribulations, gorgeous costumes, and the ever-present British accents.
After seeing the movie, the viewer can only take away this: “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of, who do the things that no one can imagine.” We should all be thankful that Turing was far from normal since, without him, the world would be intrinsically different. But most of all, we should be glad that this unsung hero finally gets to have his story told.