THE IMITATION GAME
DIRECTED BY Morten Tyldum
STARS Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley
Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game (Photo: The Weinstein Co.)
We're initially amused, nodding our heads knowingly at the screen. Here's Benedict Cumberbatch playing a socially awkward genius who's not only smarter than everyone around him but who makes damn sure they all recognize his vast superiority and, by extension, their own humbling inferiority. Hey, it's Sherlock redux!
Well, not quite. Despite the obvious similarities to the brainiac from Baker Street, Alan Turing, the real-life personage at the center of The Imitation Game, is cut from a separate cloth, and Cumberbatch shifts gears accordingly. The result is one of the year's best performances in one of the year's best films, a vibrant work that refuses to be relegated to the status of just another Brit biopic appearing in the thick of awards season. Focusing on one of the most compelling stories to emerge from World War II — the efforts to crack the Enigma code employed by the Germans — the picture follows Turing as the mathematician and his team, all working in top secrecy for the British government, tirelessly toil around the clock trying to find the solution. Despite the skepticism of his colleagues, Turing uses what could only be described as an early-model computer to aid him in his efforts — he soldiers on mostly alone, as his only friend among the co-workers he (to paraphrase Run-D.M.C.) disses and dismisses is Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), who becomes his fiancee even though he's secretly gay.
But being a homosexual was a crime in England, and The Imitation Game earns its stripes by not only honoring the magnificent wartime achievements of Turing but also by shedding light on the ridiculous laws that would later embarrass and marginalize a hero of his caliber. And just like that, an inspirational movie about an international triumph becomes a sobering film about a national tragedy.