The story of Enigma is likely the most important story you had never heard. Films based on true stories of real historical significance are always fantastic Oscar bait, particularly when they are full of fantastic actors and actresses. Films about the prejudice’s of our past (and present) are also usually prominent come award season. A film like Selma is an obvious example of this, but the unique thing about The Imitation Game is that it is almost dealing with two extremely important concepts at the same time. The Enigma code was a German method of passing messages full of key military intelligence over normal airways, right under our noses, without us having any chance of understanding them. The efforts of a man named Alan Turing, and the British Secret Service, to crack this code were top secret until recently, and are (unbeknownst to us) some of the most important in our history. We might be all be eating Schnitzel otherwise. But the other story line in the film involves the fact that Mr. Turing, hero and all, was also a homosexual, which was forbidden in Britain at that time. Needless to say this makes for a film that is compelling, interesting, sad and inspiring on any number of levels.
Based on an excellent book named Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, the source material was always going to provide compelling viewing. It has been condensed and beautifully written to capture the key beats, without leaving out the small, personal touches between the various characters. I’m not always a fan of revealing through flashbacks, and that would be bait for me normally, but even those here seem to work well. The first thing that struck me about the film, is that it’s two hour running time never seemed to drag in the slightest, and every scene of the film was engaging and meaningful, despite being devoid of ‘action’ or ‘excitement’ as you might define it. This can be put down to a wonderfully written script, and some excellent direction from Morten Tyldum, who is a little known Norwegian director, responsible for the entertaining ‘Headhunters’.
Alan Turing was an incredibly complex man. He was of course homosexual, in a time when it was not welcomed or even allowed. He was insanely intelligent, basically a pure genius. He was socially awkward and incredibly obsessive when it comes to his work, and had very little ability to read or distinguish emotions, some of which led to his postmortem diagnosis of Autism. Playing such a man is no easy task, and Benedict Cumberbatch was certainly up to the task. He already has a demeanor and disposition, which screams intelligence, but he has an incredible knack for the socially inept, misunderstood, tactless genius, which he already displayed in the hit series Sherlock. But his softer side is also on display here, and he really does knock the performance out of the park.
He is of course aided by a very, very strong cast of supporting talent. Keira Knightley is solid as the woman in a man’s world, and Matthew Goode is tremendous as the fellow genius who is a polar opposite in character to Turing, but who’s understanding and good nature allows the two to become unlikely friends and allies. His performance, along with the incredible Mark Strong (as a MI6 leader) bring a more human note and some very welcomed humor to the film, that blends in perfectly with the serious subject matter.
As I mentioned, there are so many emotional levels that have to be tackled in this film, and there are many other moral dilemmas that are shown which I haven’t even mentioned. I’ll avoid spoilers, but some of the realities that these people had to accept were remarkable. The implications of what they were creating, outside of the most obvious, are sometimes rushed over and not given as much time as they may deserve in the film, which is noticeable, but unavoidable really due the the scale and layers to the tale. Some of the details, which are altered slightly from reality to add more drama to the film, do seem a bit convenient and perhaps overdone, but I can’t fault the film too much.
Overall, The Imitation Game is another Oscar nominee that is well worthy of that classification. Will it win? Probably not. But none the less, this is a bittersweet and incredibly interesting true story, filmed and acted admirably by a great cast. Cumberbatch puts in an inspired performance, in a role that he was basically the perfect choice for, and a wonderful supporting cast adds the credibility that the film needed to put it over the top. It is fairly formulaic, but strong it what it does. Check out the book also, if you want a more detail on this critical moment in our world’s history.