The Imitation Game

Year: 2014
Production Co: Black Bear Productions
Director: Morten Tyldum
Writer: Graham Moore
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, Mark Strong

Though I'm sure Benedict Cumberbatch will be showered with awards and praise (we're entering the 2015 awards season as I write this review), I usually find depictions of obsessive/compulsive or borderline autistic genius types in movies way too overplayed, and I found the same thing here.

There's almost always a one-note male hero who gets all the accolades playing a character with several very fixed nuances and almost no subtlety (being antisocial and a mathematics genius in this case), and there's usually a warm, understanding woman who constantly suffers at their hands but loves and supports them and becomes the only one to truly know and accept them.

Not that the performances aren't good, but the actors in American movies (or those with designs on the prestige end of Hollywood) might as well hold flashing neon signs telegraphing their character traits.

So it is with Cumberbatch as wartime cryptographer Alan Turing and Keira Knightley as his colleague and wife-of-convenience Joan. Turing has the methodical brain of Einstein and the social skills of a toddler when the no-nonsense military commander Denniston (Charles Dance) interviews potential staff for a secret new project to crack the German enigma codes.

Using a manner than might be sheer cojones if it weren't simply unfiltered self-belief, Turing is soon put to work with colleagues at Bletchley Park, but no sooner does he start than he insists to be put in charge of them and spend a small fortune constructing a machine that will do the calculations to crack the German codes.

Throughout the whole film he seems more interested in his personal project to create an electronic calculating device than he is on helping the Allies win the war, and he does nothing to endear himself to his colleagues either, the stress of his manner and their ongoing failure taking a heavy toll.

The direction throughout is mostly academic, the film merely putting one foot in front of the other. We don't really have any more of an idea of what drives Turing at the end than we did in the beginning, though it hints that the loss of a good friend he was falling in love with as a boy either drove him obsessively mad or made him decide to never give his emotions the time of day again.

But ultimately, none of the criticisms you can level against The Imitation Game matter. It's about persecution against homosexuality set against the backdrop of the Second World War. You can't find two more Oscar-ready subjects. If Turing had been black it'd go straight into the National Film Register too.

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