Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, a mathematician recruited by the British army in an attempt to decode the “Enigma” Nazi code used against the Allies during World War II. Assisting him are a rag tag group of codebreakers and Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), his mental companion. As the casualties mount and the war gets worse, the pressure on Turing magnifies, and a secret he has kept for years threatens to destroy him.
Benedict Cumberbatch is great in the role of Turing, able to keep his quirks from being too offputting while hinting at a deep level of unease in his character.
The rest of the cast is solid as well. Mark Strong as Stewart Menzies provides welcome bits of comic relief as one of the closest spies to Winston Churchill and Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander is suave as one of Turing’s code breakers. Keira Knightley’s Joan is a bit of an enigma in herself. While the chemistry is strong between her and Cumberbatch, she serves no real purpose to the story other than as a foil to Turing. She also seems to be a character that was added solely for the purpose of having a woman in the cast and without more integrity to the plot, her storyline is a bit lacking.
The direction by Mortem Tyldum is rather padantic with standard shot-reverse shot editing and no real artistic flair in the direction. The screenplay similarly suffers as a by-the-book plot. The film also has trouble escaping the feel and look of a film that was intended to win Academy Awards. There is the crying scene, the call to arms we’re-going-to-save-the-country moment, the social commentary vibe and the historical movie-of-all-times aspect. It is remarkably similar at times to similar Oscar fodder films The King’s Speech (2010) and A Beautiful Mind (2001). Focusing on awards is never a strong way to tell a story and the film suffers at times for trying to be “that” film. When it focuses on just telling the story, and the story is quite interesting indeed, the film succeeds.
The Imitation Game is nothing you haven’t seen before, but it contains everything you want in a film. There’s some action, some drama, some laughs, a deep lesson and an interesting historical story that you won’t forget.