IMITATION GAME, THE
Against considerable odds and obstacles, English mathematician, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), leads a top secret team in the English countryside that cracks the German's fearsome Enigma code during World War II. His success is estimated to have shortened the war by two years and saved 14 million lives, yet Turing's sexuality overshadows his achievements in the conservative era of his time. (Based on a true story.)
Review by Louise Keller:
Blindly arrogant with a brilliant mind and displaying extreme unsocial behaviour are some of the characteristics of Alan Turing in this riveting biopic, in which Benedict Cumberbatch portrays the eccentric mathematician who breaks the unbreakable WWII German code with unerring virtuosity. The completeness of Cumberbatch's performance makes it one of the year's best while Graham Moore's cleverly structured script allows Headhunters director Morten Tyldum all the ammunition he needs to bring justice to this extraordinary story.
Based on Alan Hodges' book Alan Turing: The Enigma, whose title is a wordplay on the unfathomable man and the name of the German cryptograph machine that offers 159 million million million possibilities every single day to decode war-time attack instructions, putting the lives of millions at risk. As a war film, spy thriller and intellectual drama, the film resonates at the highest level, but it is Turing's homosexuality that carves its emotional heart, putting us constantly on a knife's edge.
The film begins in Manchester in 1951, using as its framing, the conversation between a policeman named Nock (Rory Kinnear) and Turing. Pay attention Turing tells Nock as his voice-over guides us through the events that begin in 1939 London when Turing applies for a secret post to try to decipher Enigma's code. Just as he fails to endear himself to Charles Dance's Navy Commander or Mark Strong's MI6 agent, who sarcastically asks Turing if he was the most popular boy at school, Turing's relationship with his fellow cryptologists team in Bletchley Park, lead by chess champion Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) is equally volatile, often with humorous results.
The way the narrative flits back and forth from1928 when we learn of Turing's similar antisocial and unpopular behaviour as a youngster and his close relationship with his only friend, Christopher (Jack Bannon) is wonderfully and delicately executed. The editing is exceptional: one of the film's many powerful emotional moments arrives when a pivotal scene in Turing's childhood reveals much about the name he gives the machine he builds to break the code.
Much of Turing's arrogance and unconventional behaviour plays with comic undertones including the commencement of his relationship with Keira Knightley's Joan Clarke, recruited to MI6 by means of her ability to complete a crossword in less than 10 minutes. Knightley is wonderful; her Joan is far from a straightforward character. Their friendship is based on the marriage of their brilliant minds.
There is plenty of tension in the build up to the eureka moment when the code is broken, but there are more surprises to come as the need for secrets continue with a Soviet spy with which to contend among other things. The correlation between mind and machine is artfully managed. The tragedy that Turing's sexual persuasions overshadow his deserved hero-status is the bitter twist in the tail of this fascinating tale about the precursor to the computer - with Turing's brilliant invention 'thinking' as it assesses the possibilities. Stunning cinema.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Having recently read several superb books about the British spying operations during World War II generally and about Alan Turing's unique contribution in particular, I am reasonably familiar with the subject matter, yet the film still manages to knock my socks off. The reason for its impact is the quality of the storytelling and filmmaking; Morten Tyldum and his team have not only adapted Andrew Hodges' book with great care, they have constructed a film that weaves together the large themes with the intimate.
And large themes they are, a World War with millions of lives at stake - and all true - along with the story of how Turing developed a machine (which he christened Christopher for memorable reasons) whose offspring are called computers. Coupled with a sensitive yet frank portrait of Turning (Benedict Cumberbatch) as a complex, brilliant, flawed, secretly (and illegally) homosexual, this is a powerhouse of a story.
Cumberbatch is brilliantly effective and credible as this ... well, enigmatic man, and the film's greatest success comes from framing it through Turing's childhood years, where he made a true friend, whose shadow would follow him for the rest of his life.
From Matthew Goode as initially his enemy through Mark Strong as the shadowy MI6 overseer to the wonderful Keira Knightly as Joan Clark, the sole woman on the team and the only mathematical talent to equal Turing, they all deliver outstanding performances. (We can expect a crowd on stage at BAFTA Awards time ...)
Shining performances (and there are several more, notably Charles Dance as Turing's fractious commanding officer, Commander Denniston) are matched by stunning achievements in cinematography, music, design and especially William Goldenberg's exceptional editing.
Tyldum guides this work to its powerful conclusion with a singular vision which embraces all the disparate elements and fuses them into a cohesive and coherent film destined for longevity - a classic.
Email this article
IMITATION GAME, THE (M)
CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Allen Leech, Tuppence Middleton, Rory Kinnear, Alex Lawther
PRODUCER: Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky, Teddy Schwartzman
DIRECTOR: Morten Tyldum
SCRIPT: Graham Moore (book by Andrew Hodges)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: îscar Faura
EDITOR: William Goldenberg
MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Maria Djurkovic
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 1, 2015