The story of Alan Turing is truly a tragic one. After breaking the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park, the mathematician endured several long, lonely years before being arrested for “gross indecency” for his homosexuality. After being forced to undergo chemical castration, he committed suicide in 1954. The Imitation Game tries its very best and does a good job of paying homage to the man himself, who received an official royal pardon last year. Jumping between his early school days, his arrest and sentencing in 1951, and his most famous years at Bletchley, the film paints a picture of a troubled, brilliant and ultimately wronged man. And at the centre of this picture, is Benedict Cumberbatch.[divider]+[/divider]
The Imitation Game doesn’t come across as a film promoting Turing’s legacy on the world of technology, nor does it appear to be particularly interested in the field of gay rights. What it does succeed in however, is being an excellent biopic of a misunderstood genius.[divider]+[/divider]
Having enjoyed a rise to stardom most of us can only dream of, Cumberbatch somehow tops a marvellous 2013 and 14 with the performance of his career. He is subtle, nuanced and extremely moving as Turing. Something to admire in Cumberbatch is how much he conveys his dedication to each role onscreen – when you can actually see an actor giving it his all in every frame, you know they’ve got it right, and this performance is enough to set the Oscar bells a-ringing. He’s among good company, too. Keira Knightley, although perhaps enjoying her caricatured posh girl a little too much early on, puts in a wonderful turn as his colleague (and later fiancée) Joan Clarke. With Mark Strong and Matthew Goode and a strangely Yorkshire Rory Kinnear, the rest of the cast doesn’t really put a foot wrong either.
Where the film does err, however, is in its structure. The story of Turing is a fascinating one, but although it provides an essential and upsetting ending, the later 1950s sections mostly seem tacky and added on – an attempt to give more poignancy to Turing’s legacy in the computing world than the rest of the film puts across. But the main problem is that Turing’s life seems to have been squashed, stretched and yanked to fit the perfect formula. It stops short of being clichéd, but there is a certain air of predictability throughout, which begins to verge on boring about halfway through. The film is described in one summary as a “nail-biting race against time”. However, no actual tension or threat is felt whatsoever for about half the film, which leaves a tiny bit too many typical biopic scenes to be believable. Luckily, the last half an hour heats up fantastically, as a deep web of secrecy and lies, both professional and personal, infects Turing’s life. This all culminates in a powerful ending which will leave you waiting for Cumberbatch’s name on the Oscar nominations list next year.
Although visually plain, (as some would claim the 1940s and 50s were), the cinematography is interesting enough to carry the film forward, and this is assisted by Alexandre Desplat’s magnificent score. The six-time Oscar nominee produces one of his finest works, which perfectly accompanies every second of the film. All in all, whether it wants to be or not, The Imitation Game doesn’t come across as a film promoting Turing’s legacy on the world of technology, nor does it appear to be particularly interested in the field of gay rights. What it does succeed in however, is being an excellent biopic of a misunderstood genius – a tragic and yet heroic story.