Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and Allen Leech
The Imitation Game is one of those must-see movies of 2014 that is gripping on multiple levels. The Nazis have developed an unbreakable code machine that transmits vital information, which can be used against the allies to pinpoint their locations. Around the world the greatest minds alive have tried to crack the code without success, until Alan Turing’s eccentric idea of building a machine that can think.
Benedict Cumberbatch, the outrageously popular British actor, portrays Alan Turing, the genius mathematician and logician who cracks Germany’s Enigma Code. Along with him are other brilliant minds of the day working around the clock to find an answer.
Alan is not the most congenial of individuals. Bullied as a child in private school, he’s an odd sort of young man who has difficulty fitting in because of his brilliance. As he grows up, his people skills have not improved, and he has the unique knack of alienating those around him. While others on his team push pencils all day long attempting to break the code in 24-hour spans, before the German’s change it again, he’s fiddling with building a machine to do all the work. Undeterred by setbacks and critics, he continues onward until he succeeds.
The movie works on many levels for a variety of reasons. While we watch Alan attempt to do the impossible, we are reminded of the horrors of war from actual clips from World War II that reiterate the importance and urgency of breaking the code. In addition, once the code is broken, the secrecy must be kept so the German’s do not realize their accomplishments. Instead, the brilliant men and one woman spend the remainder of the war crunching statistics on the number of casualties and the effects of actually using bits and pieces of information obtained from the Germans to direct those missions that would be most successful.
Beyond Alan’s intelligence, there is passion for succeeding and the struggle to be true to himself among a world that does not understand him. Benedict’s performance is absolutely astounding in portraying the emotions of Alan Turing. To add to the complexity of his character is the fact that he is a homosexual, living in an age when such lifestyles were criminal offenses. Benedict’s ability to take hold of each of these characteristics and display them with such heart-wrenching accuracy, is worth any award he may garnish for his performance.
Also in the movie are other familiar faces, including Allen Leech (Downton Abbey’s former chauffeur), and Matthew Goode (who nearly got hanged in Death Comes to Pemberly). Keira does a fine job as the only brilliant woman in the group, who impresses Alan by solving a challenging puzzle in less than six minutes.
The movie also delves into his post-war life and the struggles he faced afterward. He was arrested and convicted as a homosexual, and rather than do time in prison chose to take chemical castration drugs to curb his homosexuality. A few years later, he committed suicide but received a royal pardon 60 years later from the Queen.
With all of the movie’s intrigue and emotional highs and lows, I highly recommend The Imitation Game.