Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, Charles Dance, Mark Strong
Directed by Morten Tyldum
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Studio : The Weinstein Company
Screened at the Dubai Film Festival 2014
Five minutes into the movie, you get the Benedict Cumberbatch that you are accustomed to. The oh-so familiar cocky attitude and sharp wit of his Sherlock avatar is yet again on display and I feared that one was going to be treated to more of the same. But by the time the closing credits roll, you realise the Cumberbatch has managed to put out there a mighty outstanding performance which lets the story of Alan Turing take centre-stage. Cumberbatch paints his character with rich layers of emotional complexity making The Imitation Game one of the genuine treats of the year.
And it is a mighty important story and the makers know they have an equally important responsibility on hand. After being kept shrouded in secrecy for a long time, the story of English mathematician Alan Turing and the role he and his team played in one of the most important events of our history makes for a riveting tale indeed. It is a tale of a man who has done so much for the modern world, and yet what the British government could do in return for the man for all his achievements was get him sentenced for being ‘different’.
The main plot is set during World War II where we find the Germans are making merry advancements with the help of a code named ‘Enigma’ that makes their messages undecipherable. But the Brits under the leadership of Churchill have sponsored an elite team of crypt-analysts in a desperate attempt to crack the code, the pattern of which resets at the stroke of the midnight hour. The team keeps failing to make any progress and keeps starting from scratch every new dawn.
However while the team is busy at their code-cracking, the odd-ball outsider Alan Turing has other ideas. Turing is busy developing a huge machine that could work out the code much faster. Obviously he has the challenge of getting the officials to sponsor it. And once funded, he also has the greater challenge of getting his machine to work. Despite the sceptical responses from all around, Turing firmly believes that this is their best change at cracking the ‘Enigma’ and thereby gaining the upper hand on the Nazis.
The Imitation Game is very much a period drama set around WWII events, but it has little to do with the action on the battlefield. Instead our tale focuses on the brains behind the closed doors tucked away at the secret location of Bletchley Park.
Norwegian director Morten Tyldum of Headhunters fame, has managed to fine-tune impressively into the big crowd-pleaser formula, even though he had a shoe string budget to get the work done. Tyldum deftly navigates through the Turing story, deliberately avoiding the trap of unsettling the audiences with the harsher realities of the tale. Of course, Graham Moore’s script takes the cinematic liberties but eventually it results in an effective narration that overcomes the flaws. The focus is more on the achievements the man has brought to the country and the significant role he had in ensuring the victory of the Allied in the war. And the honour of being the man behind the machine- which today we know as a ‘Computer’. However the heartbreaks and loss he had to face as a young Turing and the sufferings and the humiliation he had to endure for being a homosexual are discussed in brief oscillating moments.
The screenplay’s charm is even while Cumberbatch steals the show from the word ‘go’ , it still allows every cast member to register an impact, irrespective of their screen time.
Besides the big noisy machine named ‘Christopher’ (factually named ‘Bombe’) that is the centre of Turing’s affection, strong support also comes from Keira Knightley, Matthew Good, Allen Leech , all of whom make up the code breaking team. Also Mark Strong as the MI6 chief and Charles Dance (of Game of Thrones) rounds up an effective cast.
With humour and wit in plenty, thrills and suspense in good measures and the pathos and sufferings beneath it all, The Imitation Game is a long overdue tribute to one of the greats. Tyldum’s easy and conventional approach will ensure that the Turing story reaches a global audience. More importantly, it gives viewers a chance witness an actor like Benedict Cumberbatch at the top of his game. Undoubtedly the real deal!