The Imitation Game (2014)
The Second World War is the single greatest phenomenon in the history of mankind. No other event comes even marginally close to the impact World War II had on global scale for it not only altered the political & social structure around the world but also ended up enriching the fields of art, literature, films & television with countless events, so many that even after 70 years we’re still in the process of discovering entirely new things about it. The Imitation Game doesn’t bring anything new to the film canvas in that regard but it sheds more light on the unsung heroes whose wartime breakthroughs & contributions played a major role in changing the outcome of the last great war.
With the majority of the plot set during the Second World War, The Imitation Game tells the story of the brilliant mathematician Alan Turing & his team of code-breakers who are brought together at Bletchley Park to work on a top-secret mission i.e. breaking the Nazi Germany’s Enigma code in order to understand the enemy’s movements & turn the tide in Allies’ favour in the long run. The story overlaps three plot lines concerning different stages of Turing’s life; first being his unhappy teenage years at boarding school, second being his secret wartime work during which he created a revolutionary electromechanical device to decode Enigma-generated codes, and third being his post-war tragedy when he was prosecuted for being a homosexual.
Fabulously directed by Morten Tyldum, who made his English-language debut with this historical drama, the film is intensely gripping when all of its elements align to work as one but where the story stumbles is in its non-chronological narration for the continuous shift from one timeline to another occurs in a way that feels more abrupt & intrusive than smooth & convincing. Written by Graham Moore, the screenplay is a work of gem that nicely glosses over some key events in Alan Turing’s life & although some portion of the narrative is dramatised for cinematic purposes, especially the relationship between Alan Turing & Joan Clarke, the basic outline nonetheless maintains an admirable level of authenticity with what happened in real-life.
Coming to the technical aspects, the production design team’s most notable work is the electro-mechanical bombe itself which Turing designed to decipher the Enigma-generated encrypted messages. The filming locations are wisely chosen as well to keep it as real as possible. Cinematography makes fine use of its camera, images retain a sharp clarity & it balances its warm & cold colour tones very well. Editing is one aspect that turns out to be a mixed bag because even though the pacing is steady, the three overlapping timelines are not intertwined properly. And last but not the least, Alexandre Desplat once again manages to come up with a fitting score that beautifully integrates with the film’s events & also elevates some moments to next level with its wonderful tracks.
As far as acting is concerned, The Imitation Game features a reliable cast in Benedict Cumberbatch, Matthew Goode, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Charles Dance & others, and their contribution definitely lifts the story up by a great deal. Leading the cast from the front is Cumberbatch who delivers an outstanding performance in the role of Alan Turing; the legendary cryptanalyst whose wartime efforts turned the tide in the favour of the Allies but who was nonetheless punished for being a homosexual. Goode plays Hugh Alexander; a chess champion who worked with Turing to break Enigma codes. Knightley is pretty good as Joan Clarke; Turing’s closest associate at Bletchley Park, while Strong chips in nicely as Stewart Menzies; Chief of MI6 (British Secret Intelligent Service) who oversees the code-breaking operation.
On an overall scale, The Imitation Game is a highly interesting portrait of an eccentric individual whose influential works before, during & after the Second World War laid the foundation of theoretical computer science & artificial intelligence that exists today. It is a heartbreaking story of a misfit who was never given proper credit for what he & his team of code-breakers did during the darkest days of human history. And it is a biting look at one of United Kingdom’s most shameful & disgraceful acts considering the fact that the very government Turing helped in winning the war later criminally prosecuted him for his homosexuality. Even though The Imitation Game fares less than what it was capable of and isn’t different from other examples of its genre with similar subject, it still manages to be an expertly crafted, meticulously researched & strongly performed cinema that’s engaging, entertaining & satisfying. Definitely worth a shot.