The Imitation Game, based on the real life story of Alan Turing, stars Sherlock‘s Benedict Cumberbatch, Count Arthur Strong‘s Rory Kinnear, and Pirate‘s Keira Knightly. The film is told in flashback as Turing (Cumberbatch) recounts his tale of being the greatest code-breaker in the world during WWII to Detective Nock (Kinnear) after Turing was arrested for being a homosexual. The Commander (Charles Dance) puts Turing into a group of codebreakers, and Turing quickly finagles his way to the head of the team (with the help of Winston Churchill). First, Turing replaces two of his teammates, one of whom is Joan Clarke (Knightly), someone who is even better at puzzles than he is. Together, the team–and not without argument and secrets–sets off to build the first ever thinking machine, a “computer” that will break the Nazi’s Enigma code machine and save millions of lives.
The characters are sympathetic, the suspense is real, and you could say that The Imitation Game is one of the better films that are like this, but that doesn’t discount the fact that there are other films like this, dozens if not hundreds. The first clue is that this a WWII period piece and one of the main actors is a woman. Ohh, this is going to be one of those “Women are just as good as men” films, isn’t it? Yes, it is. Even so, Joan Clarke is a likable character who would happily marry Turing for his mind, knowing full well they would never be physically intimate.
The plot itself wraps so tightly into a neat little bow, it makes you suspicious as to the true story’s trueness. How convenient that the source of Turing’s obsession with the codes and math that save the world trace back to his love of a male classmate who died young, when it is his homosexuality that leads to his arrest and ultimate downfall. Having not done any research, you may ask as you watch the film, Was this Christopher person real? Did Turing really name his computer after a dead classmate? Yes, this aspect makes him a tragic, complicated hero, and a human one (Am I a man or a machine? he asks the detective), and as much as I love the psychiatric explanation for his skill, it is perhaps a better device for fiction than nonfiction.
The acting, shooting, design, and direction are all grade A stuff.