When “The Imitation Game” begins we hear the narrator set the mood for a dire story. He informs us to pay attention, he will not repeat himself, and to make no mistake about the current situation; just because he's in jail does NOT mean he isn't the one holding the cards! This is, in a way, director Morten Tyldum making a statement that he is going to give us a challenging movie. It won't gift wrap itself for an audience and it will force you to use your brain, so you better pay attention or you will regret it. Such a claim early on is risky because the product needs to deliver on that promise, and the audience will not forgive you if you can't do that. So confident is this statement though, that “The Imitation Game” is more than able to back up this initial promise, and in many ways goes beyond that initial promise by delivering not only a complicated story, but a very human story about a forgotten man.
That man is Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch#, a math genius who is applying for a position with the British government that is, shall we say, not a matter of public record. It is World War II, and the German's are winning the war with much efficiency and ease. A large part of this is because they have developed a complicated communication tool known as Enigma, which delivers messages over the radio airwaves in a special code that appears to be unbreakable. The code is so fool proof that the British Army actually have an Enigma communication machine on hand and they STILL can't crack it! Alan is an anti-social man who is brilliant in statistics, but seems unable to comprehend basic human interaction #for all we know he may have Asperger's#. Hated though he is, he might be the only one who can actually figure out how the Enigma code actually works and design a machine that can combat it.
Despite his superiors not liking the man very much, he does have lots of radical ideas and manages to bring on several people who can at least bounce theories off of him. The most notable team member is the sole female of the group, Joan Clarke #Kiera Knightley#, who has difficulty getting through the front door by Alan's superiors on the basis that she is female, but who proves to be the only one who seems to match his intellect #as well as crossword puzzle skills#. Their relationship is an interesting one. Alan does everything he can to keep Clarke staffed, as she is the only one he seems to relate to, but their relationship always seems a little off. He visits her house at night and even performs the mating ritual of tossing stones at her window to alert her of his presence, but once he is let inside her room they spend the night discussing radio frequencies and numbers as opposed to human anatomy.
Later we learn that Alan is gay, and keeps this secret as it is illegal for people to be gay at this point in time. The movie states this as a matter-of-fact but doesn't seem that interested in his sexuality for the most part. The screenplay is far more interested in the process of Alan making his Enigma cracking machine #code named Christopher), his utter devotion to this object, and how, in a very sad way, this is the most intimate relationship he has in his life. Heck, Alan himself doesn't seem that interested in his own sexuality. You'd think the movie would have a solid opinion on this state of mind, yet it wisely keeps this revelation at arm's length and lets us come to our own conclusion on how we feel about these events. All of this is held together by Cumberbatch's performance, which isn't really that different from his character on “Sherlock,” but fits this movie perfectly none-the-less.
What makes the movie so interesting from beginning to end is that the promise of having to pay attention is on full display. The movie never visualizes Alan's inner thought process, nor does it give us an “in” to his world. We are simply watching a process. There is a man behind it, but he is so reclusive and stand offish that it's hard for us to relate to him. What “The Imitation Game” does do is make us emphasize with a troubled human being and bad situation. For all the great things this man did to help win the war, he died a lonely and broken man, never thanked for his contributions and forced to live a hellish final few years because of his sexuality. What may be up for debate is whether “The Imitation Game” is a war thriller or a character drama. In some ways it's neither, and in some ways it's both. Which makes it a fascinating conundrum of a film.
Kevin T. Rodríguez
The Movie Wizard.com