“What is it we’re going to do?” says Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), newly recruited to Britain’s Bletchley Park Code and Cypher School. It’s World War II. “We’re going to break an unbreakable Nazi code and win the war,” says mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), Enigma team leader. “Oh,” says Clarke, matter-of-factly. That’s the setup for this compelling biopic and World War II drama.
Will the team break Enigma, the German code? Does Turing, despite his arrogance and eccentricities, win over his teammates? Can he keep his personal secrets from others? For answers, see — ASAP — this memorable film.
Benedict Cumberbatch is restrained and brilliant as complex, confident but vulnerable mathematician Alan Turing who, with his electronic machine — a computer prototype — seeks to crack Germany’s Enigma machine. “Only a machine,” he says to his doubting team mates, “can defeat another machine.” Bullied as a school boy, young Turing (Alex Lawther) says, “They beat me up because I’m smarter than they are.” “No,” his only friend Christopher Morcom (Jack Bannon) says, “They beat you up because you’re different.”
Others in the skillful and convincing cast include Keira Knightley as tough-minded mathematician Joan Clarke. She tells Turing, “I’m a woman in a man’s job. I can’t afford to be an ass.” Charles Dance, Matthew Goode and Steven Waddington are Commander Denniston, a one-note character who hires Turing but dislikes him from the start, mathematician Hugh Alexander whom Turing replaces as team leader, and Manchester Police Superintendent Smith who, in the communist-hunting 1950s, discovers Turing’s secrets.
“The Imitation Game” is a splendid film — strong performances, smart script, compelling story, and first-rate production values. Morten Tyldum directed, from Graham Moore’s intelligent, if melodramatic, script, based on Andrew Hodge’s book. “Imitation Machine” concentrates on Turing and his team’s code-breaking World War II work, but also flashes back to Turing’s troubled boyhood and forward to postwar investigations of his war records and personal life. Providing helpful context, archival black-and-white newsreel excerpts show British food shortages, German U-boats attacking convoys, and the London blitz, while the script includes episodes that depict wartime and post-war hunts for spies and counterspies.
Rated PG-13 for sexual references, mature themes and smoking, “Imitation Game” runs 114 minutes. There’s lots to appreciate in this fine film.
Cumberbatch is brilliant,
“Imitation Game,” compelling;
Code-breaking war story,
Strong, tragic in its telling.