The Imitation Game (2014)
Where Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner is a series of vignettes from the painter’s life, The Imitation Game is a far more traditional biopic. Norwegian film director Morten Tyldum follows a tried and tested formula with his story arc, moving from points A to B to C, intercutting with flashbacks to reveal a specific plot theme. Yet such an approach is the perfect means to tell the story of British cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who helped break the Enigma code during the Second World War. It provides a stable foundation for the strong lead performances that drives the movie and compensate for the narratives conceits.
There have been complaints about the veracity of Graham Moore's adaptation of Andrew Hodges biography of Turing. However, The Imitation Game is a drama and not a documentary and the medium of cinema requires dramatic punctuation, so I am happy to forgive some of the stories contrivances. Was Turing truly broken hearted by a failed relationship at school? Did one of the codebreaking team have to put their own brother in harm’s way in order to maintain secrecy? More than likely not but such plot devices certainly do not detract from the central story of one man's obsession and struggle with his own personal demons.
Benedict Cumberbatch is compelling as Alan Turing, playing him as someone who is most definitely on the spectrum. A modern audience will seize upon this justification for Turing's obtuse behaviour. Keira Knightley provides a sympathetic performance as Joan Clarke: a woman with a prodigious intellect who is frustrated by the patriarchal culture of the times. The platonic relationship between the two leads is credibly realised. The movie also has an authentic feel to it due to Óscar Faura's Cinematography and the measured production design of Maria Djurkovic. There is sufficient detail to establish that this is war time Britain but we are not belaboured by an excess of CGI.
With regard to Turing's sexuality, the matter is explored sufficiently to advance the narrative but beyond that, no more is done. Critics have picked up on the fact that there's a lack of any conviction upon this matter throughout the movie. Perhaps this was a practical concession made to make the film more "accessible" for the US market. As a result, The Imitation Game is a very professionally made, absorbing but somewhat calculated biopic. Despite this it does provide an interesting overview into a significant period of war time history and one of the UK's unsung heroes. If that inspires people to explore the subjects further, then that is a good thing.