February 4, 2015
A prodigious academic mathematician from Cambridge, Alan Turing led a team of code-breakers at Britain's top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during World War II. Their mission was to break the code used by the German army to communicate their plans -- Enigma -- deemed unbreakable by all the Allies.
Unlike his other co-workers, Turing was not satisfied in solving one coded message at a time. He wanted to build a machine which could solve everything at one go. This expensive and seemingly futile efforts made him a lot of enemies determined to bring him down, even if it meant attacking his private life.
The film also touches on young Turing's lonely life in boarding school, as well as his life of personal persecution after the war.
Benedict Cumberbatch has a very distinct-looking face. However, in some magical way, he manages to still be an effective chameleon when he acts. If he were a lesser actor, the character of Alan Turing could be dangerously close to becoming a clone of another of his famous roles Sherlock Holmes. However, Cumberbatch does not only etch out a distinct character. His Alan Turing is a memorable achievement in acting. When I was watching this film, I was in awe on how he portrayed this anti-social introverted genius with his fair share of public conflicts and inner turmoil.
Keira Knightley played fellow mathematical genius and Cambridge graduate student Joan Clarke, who became Turing's colleague, close friend and fiancee. Knightley's performance as the staunchly loyal Clarke is sincere and understated. Her Oscar nomination is reward enough for her good work here.
There is also strong support from character actor Charles Dance, as Cmdr. Alastair Denniston, Turing's nemesis during his days at Bletchley Park. Mark Strong plays Maj. Gen. Stewart Menzies of the mysterious ultra-secret MI-6. Matthew Goode (as charismatic chess champion Hugh Alexander) and Allen Leech (as sly double agent John Cairncross) standout among the cryptanalyst crew.
It is a testament to the directing and storytelling skills of director Morten Tyldum, a Norwegian director I have not heard from before. He was able to take a turgid story about people trying to break enemy codes during the war, not really a visually cinematic topic to begin with, and turn it into an exciting and suspenseful thriller. He was able to unearth and draw out the dramatic potentials in the life of Alan Turing and make us all care about this person, whom we may not easily relate to in real life.
"The Imitation Game" is a must-see film. It is one of the most cited films in this year's Oscar race, nominated for 8 Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Film Editing, Production Design, Music Score and Adapted Screenplay. 9/10.