The Imitation Game (2014) Review – Cumberbatch’s Nightcrawler

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The Imitation Game is directed by Morten Tyldum who from reviewing his resume has served his time in Norwegian television, then film, and this is his first wide release project.  It is based on a book by Andrew Hodges called Alan Turing: The Enigma which has been adapted for the big screen by Graham Moore who only has a couple of shorts and a single episode of TV behind him.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the central role of Alan Turing, the mathematician turned code breaker, who is brought to Bletchley Park to understand the secrets of the Enigma machine.  He joins an eclectic group that includes Kiera Knightly as Joan Clark and the shadowy Stewart Menzies played by Mark Strong.  The story focuses on this key stage of Turing’s life and the aftermath of the war as he struggles to hide the fact that he is a gay man living in a world that considers him a deviant.

You may be asking why have I used the tag line Cumberbatch’s Nightcrawler?  They are very different films surely?  In many ways you would be right.  They are set sixty years apart and the stakes are very different.  I make the comparison because they are both set up to show off the acting prowess of the lead performer.  The performance given by Cumberbatch delivers a three dimensional fully fleshed out human being who we can both admire and put off by.

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The Imitation Game is ultimately a character piece which uses World War II and the breaking of the Enigma code as a vehicle to tell the story of the talented and doomed Alan Turing.  He is a once in a generation talent who is tortured by living in a society that won’t accept him for who he is and struggles to accept him for his blunt and literal way of communicating.  He takes comfort in his work and his unlikely relationship with Joan starts to provide him with an insight into his human side that has been missing for many years.

I won’t give away the ending although if you know your history you know it isn’t sugar and spice and all things nice.  I want to give a special shout out to Alex Lawther who plays the young Turing.  He does a great job of capturing the same mannerisms and way of speaking as Cumberbatch does which makes it easy to believe they are the same person.  I don’t have any major criticisms of the film beyond some of the supporting characters are a one dimensional and I wasn’t sure that the way the flashbacks were used were as smooth as they could have been.

If I was handing out a rating I would be hovering between three and four stars.  It’s a well bolted together film with good performances across the piece.  For some reason it didn’t punch me in the gut as other films have this year.  I fully understand why there is so much talk of Cumberbatch being nominated for an Oscar this time around.  He does a great job of bringing his character to life.  Talking of Oscar’s there was a featurette of The Theory of Everything (2014) shown before this film and  Eddie Redmayne looks amazing.

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