Learning from ‘The Imitation Game’

Tribune News Service
"The Imitation Game" is nominated for Best Picture in the 87th Academy Awards. Benedict Cumberbatch stars in "The Imitation Game." (Jack English/TNS)
Tribune News Service

Tribune News Service

Jacob Jardel
Assistant Managing Editor

“The Imitation Game” will blind viewers not only with science but also with the moving story of Alan Turing.

The critically acclaimed film received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Director for Morten Tyldum, Best Actor for lead Benedict Cumberbatch, Best Supporting Actress for Keira Knightley and Best Picture. It also garnered five Golden Globe nominations, three Screen Actors Guild nods and nine British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominations.
After watching the movie, it is easy to see why.

“The Imitation Game” recollects the story of British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) – one of the key individuals behind the cracking of the Nazi Enigma code.

Reader be wary: minor spoilers ahead.

The film takes a deep look into three key points of Turing’s life: a young and introverted Turing’s school life in 1927, Professor Turing’s vital service to the cause of cracking Enigma from 1939 until the end of World War II and a slightly older Turing’s postwar life in 1951.

Though the shifts in temporal perspective take a bit of getting used to, it does not take away from the meaning of the film. Once viewers settle in to the shifts, it becomes a compelling aspect of the story.

The movie begins in the 1951 era with two detectives investigating a supposed robbery at Turing’s home, which he dismisses as he experiments with cyanide. Both detectives grow suspicious, and Detective Nock (Rory Kinnear) investigates.

From that point, the movie jumps around the three different eras. The scenes in 1927 highlight Turing’s tortured school experiences and relationship with a young man named Christopher (Jack Bannon) with whom he forms a close bond. The scenes in 1939 show Turing’s time at Bletchley Park, where he joins a group of cryptographers to crack the Nazi code.

Turing’s introversion, quirkiness and heightened self-perception take over the first parts of the movie; his lack of social skills combine with those factors to make for dynamic relationships with his Bletchley team and especially touching moments with Christopher and Joan Clarke (Knightley), who joins the previously all-male team to crack Enigma.

Things begin to turn even more dynamic after Turing finishes his machine to crack Enigma until a one-chance night out with friends gives them the secrets to deciphering the code. The revelation, however, is only the beginning of some of the movie’s most moving drama.

Overall, the “The Imitation Game” excelled in most every category and truly earned the numerous nominations it received.

The cast as a whole did a good job at playing their parts, especially the main cast. Though the entire Bletchley team portrayed their roles well, Matthew Goode stood out, doing a phenomenal job as Hugh Alexander, encapsulating the anger-turned-respect-turned-admiration of Turing and his genius.

Knightley did well to convey Clarke’s compassion for Turing and passion for solving Enigma, while the chemistry between Bannon and Alex Lawther (who played young Turing) showed through on screen excellently. Lawther encapsulated the aesthetic of young Turing perfectly.

However, the shining performance came from Cumberbatch. His ability to portray Turing in all aspects of his being, good and bad, kept viewers entrenched in the story and invested in seeing when and how they would crack Enigma. He portrayed every apparent and subtle nuance of Turing phenomenally, truly earning every nomination and award bestowed upon him.

Only two things shined on par with Cumberbatch’s performance, first of which being the music. The orchestral score for the film accurately conveyed the emotions of the scenes, cutting off and coming on at just the right moments in the film.

The other excellent aspect of the movie was the handling of Turing’s homosexuality. Subtle hints provided viewers with inklings that would prove true at a pivotal part in the movie. No character treated Turing’s sexuality as a character flaw – though one could argue the numerous microaggressions and one character’s use of his sexuality as leverage say otherwise.

Overall, “The Imitation Game” was a complete package of a movie. The actors – especially Cumberbatch – told an important story in both history and science in a fantastic way. Most negative aspects are preferential or nitpicky, taking away nothing from the overall experience.

Long story short, watch “The Imitation Game.” It is a learning experience nobody should miss.


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