I recently had the pleasure of attending a preview screening of The Imitation Game at the Gulbenkian cinema in Canterbury. Illustrating the life of a war hero incarcerated based on his homosexuality, The Imitation Game is a masterpiece that can be surprisingly humorous at times. The movie is centred on Alan Turing and his drive to break the German enigma code during World War II, while simultaneously exploring his sexuality. The film itself is directed by Morten Tyldum, marking his debut into English language films. The screenplay is by first-timer Graham Moore, which is based on Andrew Hodges’ biography Alan Turing: The Enigma. Although the plot revolves around the solution to break a seemingly unbreakable code, Tyldum wisely chooses to focus on Turing himself and his relationships to the other characters; often taking a dip into his past to help us understand the man we are presented with.
In a film where it is easy to spiral out of control, Tyldum keeps a steady hand on the wheel, slowly guiding it to the finish line. Chronologically, the film is out of whack, constantly jumping between the present, the past and even further into the past. We never quite make it to the future. However, the audience does not come out muddled. Every scene is distinct; every shift in time is made clear instantaneously. Moreover, as an amateur, Moore’s screenplay exudes the air of a veteran. The writing is clear and concise, the pacing is packed perfectly and every millimetre of the film’s fat has been scraped clean. Moore ensures that every second onscreen is utilised to its maximum capacity, adding layers where layers already exist.
Alan Turing, the brilliant man himself, is played by the awesomely talented Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock). There can be no doubt that Cumberbatch is now a household name, with skills far exceeding his fame. Indeed Hollywood itself seems to recognise the man’s talents – every major role out there has his name swirling around it in rumours. Reports are even flowing in that he is very close to becoming the Sorcerer Supreme, Dr Strange himself, in the Marvel film scheduled for release in 2016.
In The Imitation Game, Cumberbatch gives perhaps his career’s greatest performance to date. Critics everywhere have labelled him as one of the five to be nominated as Best Actor in the upcoming Academy Awards, and it is not difficult to see why. In this film, he more than acts out the impression of Alan Turing, he literally transforms himself into the great man. The moment the movie starts, Benedict Cumberbatch vanishes, and Alan Turing appears onscreen. Every twitch, every blink, is masterful – purposefully conveying emotion among emotion to the audience. I must admit, during moments in this film, I had to hold back a few tears. Or perhaps it was my body urging me to use the bathroom. Who knows.
The team that Turing assembles in this film to assist him is a worthy one. Not a single actor or actress in this film phones it in; they are each extremely solid and they play their parts brilliantly. Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode particularly stand out – Keira Knightley is an award-winning actress, and in this film, there is no doubting that. She plays Joan Clarke, Alan Turing’s best friend and, perhaps more importantly, is the symbol of equality in this film. For if her character has done anything for this film, it has more than successfully proved that women are an intellectual match for men. After impressing as the too-brilliant-for-his-own-good hero Ozymandias in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, Matthew Goode once more reveals his range of acting chops as another brilliant man, mathematician Hugh Alexander. Goode embodies his character with so much charisma and likability, it is absolutely magnetising to watch onscreen. Perhaps not as magnetising as Cumberbatch, but enough to stick onto a fridge.
Overall, The Imitation Game is a masterpiece that deserves its accolade as ‘Best Picture’ from the 39th Toronto Film Festival. If you have not watched this film, watch it now. Book your tickets and see it. This film, my friends, is like a slice of cake you do not want to miss out on.
Editor’s Note: The Imitation Game will be showing at the Gulbenkian cinema from the 5th-8th December and 10th-11th December.