Puzzles—and people—are funny things. Some are so impossible and indecipherable that you give up and stop caring, but some only need just a little clue or chink in their armor to allow them to be solved. In The Imitation Game, Alan Turing is a complex man trying to solve an even more complex puzzle, and in doing so we come to solve both him and the Nazi Enigma Code. Spearheaded by Benedict Cumberbatch’s marvelous and breathtaking performance, The Imitation Game is a film that, by the end, feels like an excellent puzzle you were happy to put together.
Near the onset of WWII, the Nazi’s were communicating via an impenetrable code—the Enigma Code—that changed every day at midnight and had some millions upon millions of setting combinations. We are introduced to Alan in 1951 as he begins to recite his time in helping solve the Enigma Code to a detective who has him charged with homosexuality, which was considered a crime in England that resulted in severe and unforgiving punishments. In his recollection of what happened we come to learn of the immense pressure he was under to solve the code in order to help end the war, the people he worked with, and Turing himself, who is an enigma in his own right.
Turing is one of the most intriguing and tangled characters to appear on screen this year, and Cumberbatch brings him to the screen with the amount of vividness that we have come to expect from him. One could argue that this is his best performance to date, and they would not be far off. Cumberbatch instills, in his portrayal, vast layers of intricacy. Turing is rough around the edges, yet underneath he is oddly charming and funny. He is hard to like a times, but he is trying his hardest to help the country. His crass tendencies indicate a touch of Aspergers in his lack of understanding of social cues and humor, and his predilection to have his food separated by colors on his plate. He is the “odd duck” that everyone suspected would have nothing come from him. Cumberbatch drives the film with his troubled character; one we can debate whether he is a hero or a monster, and one who is deservedly alone or one who is simply misunderstood. Regardless of how you look at it, Cumberbatch throws himself into the role—and the throngs of the best in the business— with a tremendous and revelatory performance, clearly proving he is a definite force to be reckoned with come Awards Season.
Supporting him is a great cast including Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, and Mark Strong. Knightley is great as Joan Clarke, the only female in the film with more than a couple lines, and one of the brightest minds in the bunch. She is the hint of humanity in the film; the one who makes Alan first open up and peel away some of the rough edges. Goode is the other one who maintains a decent amount of screen time. He is suave, sarcastic, and determined. His reluctance to work with Turing turns into a sort of mutual respect, and the two make for an interesting dynamic.
The cast has a superb script to work with; one that topped the “Black List” back in 2011 as the best un-produced screenplay. It is a film that is very aware of the time it takes place in, but is also so timely in our current era in regards to its handling of homosexuality and the mistreatment of those living in fear for who they are. It is often funny, deeply emotional, and deceptively entertaining. It is structured like the man it is about, and code he is trying to solve; a puzzle where all the pieces finally come into place by the end of the film.
In the end, The Imitation Game is an excellently crafted movie that will intrigue you and educate you on one of the pioneers of early computer technology. Sliding the pieces into place in this grand puzzle about the conflicted and heroic man who history nearly forgot because of his sexual orientation is one of the most fascinating and rewarding films you will see all year. Perhaps it is appropriate that Cumberbatch plays the “odd duck” Turing because, for most of us, that is what he is. Just like in the film, never doubt the ones no one imagines will do anything, because like Turing, Cumberbatch and The Imitation Game have done something truly great.