“The Imitation Game”

Spoilers Contained Throughout:

Superb is a word I seldom use, but if I were to write nothing else about the movie “The Imitation Game,” while it wouldn’t be much of a post for my blog, it would encapsulate my feelings on the film. After watching it, I am at a loss to explain why it, or several of the other nominated films for Best Picture at the 87th Academy Awards, didn’t win, as opposed to “Birdman.” I know some blogger’s, whose work I read and respect, praised “Birdman” as a cinematic treasure to be re-watched, a-la “Citizen Kane,” in order to discover hidden meanings and parts not fully grasped even after repeat viewings, while others derided it as nothing more than ostentatious drivel. Although “Birdman” had a good cast, and some well executed scenes, from the nominated films that I have seen so far, I would have much preferred if “Whiplash” or “The Imitation Game” had won Best Picture.

“The Imitation Game” marked the English language debut for Norwegian director, Morten Tyldom, who was nominated for a multitude of awards for the film. The movie, which has a runtime of 114 minutes, premiered on August 29, 2014 at the Telluride Film Festival. In his screenwriting debut, Graham Moore based his script for the film on the book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” written by Andrew Hodges, and won the Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.

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The film is more than just a World War II thriller. Yes, it deals with a group of British individuals who, at the time, were amongst the most brilliant minds in the world. Those individuals were given the daunting task of breaking the secret military codes sent out by the Nazis on a machine called Enigma. “The Imitation Game,” however, primarily concerns itself with its main character, the exceptionally intelligent, socially awkward, mathematician, Alan Turing, in a role completely embodied by Emmy winner Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock). Not only did Turing help to defeat one of the most evil regimes in recorded history, but he was the catalyst for bringing to the world, for all intents and purposes, the first computer. (As an aside: Winston Churchill stated that the single greatest contribution made for Britain’s war effort was the work Turing did on Enigma).

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The film begins in 1951. Turing’s home has been broken into, his attitude, however, is that of a person who is not concerned. Could it be because as one of the policeman remarks, nothing of value seems to have been taken, or is there another reason? The story is framed by BAFTA nominated actor Rory Kinnear’s character of investigative Detective Robert Nock, who suspects that Turing is hiding something. He begins to research Turing’s past, but the more he does, the more questions he comes up with because Turing’s life is a mystery.

Turing is taken into police custody for something related to the break-in. During his interrogation, he narrates portions of his life for Detective Nock, who at first believes the reason he can’t find anything relating to Turing during the war years is because he was a Russian spy. The voice-over narration, while in police custody, is used as the framework for the film. Graham’s screenplay traverses through different significant parts of Turing’s life. A young Turing, during his formative years, is shown being bullied mercilessly by his classmates at the Sherborne Boarding School, a place where he has only one friend, Christopher Morcom; it is a relationship that will have an effect on Turing for the rest of his life. Most of the film, however, centers on the years during World War II, when he worked in secret for the British government, in a place called Bletchley Park. Located at Bletchley was an organization named the Government Code and Cypher School, which went about trying to decipher the codes transmitted by the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.

Turing’s main focus while at Bletchley, was to build his own machine that would be able to break the Enigma codes. He first asks his superior, Commander Denniston, portrayed by Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) for the funding for the machine – a request which is denied. Not letting that stop him, he writes a letter to Winston Churchill, and gives it to Mark Strong’s character of MI6 agent Stewart Menzies, to personally deliver to the Prime Minister. Churchill not only authorizes the finances, which are considerable, but places Turing in charge of the code-breakers. His promotion is something that doesn’t sit well with his colleagues, especially the former head of the team, National Chess Champion, Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode). Additional members of the group include John Cairncross (Allen Leech), Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard) and Keith Furman (Ilan Goodman).  The only person amongst the code-breakers who likes Turing, is two time Oscar nominee Keira Knightley’s (Pride and Prejudice) character of Joan Clarke, the lone female on the team.

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Knightley’s role provides the film some levity. For example, Turing has a crossword puzzle placed in the newspapers, which states that if a person can solve the puzzle in a set amount of time, they should mail it in to the address provided. Clarke is one of the people that solves the puzzle and is invited to take another test. She shows up a few minutes late, and is asked to leave because the man at the door thinks she is interested in becoming a secretary, and that she is on the wrong floor. She not only is on the right floor, but she solves the new puzzle quicker than anyone else in the room. Joan will grow to become one of Turing’s most trusted confidants, and for a period of time, because he is afraid of losing her, she becomes his fiancée. Her parents want her to return home because she is twenty-five years of age, and they feel she should be looking to find a husband to settle down with, not work with a bunch of men at a radio factory. The story of working at the factory is her cover for the vital work she is really doing.

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How do the code-breakers finally defeat the seemingly unbeatable Enigma machine? In what way will they use the information to help turn the tide of war in the allies favor? Does Turing eventually earn the respect and admiration of his colleagues, other than Joan? What is the significance of Turing’s childhood friend Christopher Morcom? Those are just a few of the questions that will be answered by the film’s conclusion.

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At forty-one years of age, Alan Turing committed suicide. Why did a brilliant man like Turing feel compelled to take his own life? The answer, while simplistic, is a sad one. It was because he was scorned for being gay. Due to intolerant times, he was not only publicly humiliated, but in order to avoid spending two years in jail, he was forced to take hormonal pills. His abhorrent punishment, would not only bring about the end of his life, but deny the world his genius for the many years that he might have lived on, and continued working for the betterment of society. (As an aside: Historians have estimated that the work Turing and his team did, during World War II, saved approximately fourteen million lives and shortened the duration of the war by two years).
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About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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26 Responses to “The Imitation Game”

  1. le0pard13 says:

    One of my favorites of 2014, easily.

  2. I loved this film. Everything about it. I wish Cumberbatch had won.

    • robbinsrealm says:

      I thoroughly enjoyed the film; I thought Cumberbatch was fantastic. I too would have loved to have seen him win Best Actor. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. Tom says:

    Great look at this one Jonathan. I didn’t quite like it as much, it delved far too much into mainstream popcorn-friendly crowd-pleasing for me to really take it that seriously. But there’s no doubt the performances were wonderful, with Cumberbatch being maybe at his all-time best. I do think he should have won best actor for his work here. Knightley was also amazing, and I don’t really think much of her a lot of the time

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Firstly, thank you not only for your compliment on my review, but offering your own assessment of the film. I very much appreciate it. I agree with you; as much I think Cumberbatch is excellent on “Sherlock,” I think “The Imitation Game” might be his finest work to date.

  4. Jay says:

    A very strong film indeed. Great review.

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Agreed, it certainly deserved all of the recognition it got, especially for the cast. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and comment; it was much appreciated.

  5. Martin Richmond says:

    Great review there dude! I wholeheartedly agree that this was almost robbed at the Academy Awards and should have collected more than one Oscar. Brilliantly acted, expertly directed, with a top script. Favourite movie of 2014 by some way

  6. alexraphael says:

    I really liked it. A very important story, superbly told.

  7. The only Oscar film to have made me cry – twice!! As much as I loved it – Birdman was my choice for best pic though I had a secret desire of Whiplash taking it! ha!

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Aww… well I am sorry it made you cry, but I am glad in general that you liked the film. I respect your decision of picking “Birdman,” as I stated in the post, it certainly had a good cast and some well executed scenes, I just didn’t really care for it. Thank you for taking the time to not only just read my post, but to comment; as always it is greatly appreciated.

      • Yeah I loved when you come to read mine too and appreciate it tons. My dark horse was def. Whiplash – as if it had won you would have heard my scream wherever you were!! hahahaha My top 3 were Birdman, Whiplash, & Imitation Game. and I did like Theory but mostly for Redmayne perf. soon we will have to discuss this flock of movies.. and who we think etc.. maybe in another month we can give it whirl!! 😀 Cheers Jonathan

      • and ps…making me cry was good as I took my mom to the screening and she was there as a child at the time in Netherlands, and lived thru it & I couldn’t but thinking maybe none of us would’ve been here had it not been for ALan Turing..ya know..it hit home for me.

  8. maggie0019 says:

    Not going to read this as I want to see it…not going to peek (one eye open) not going to peek…not even a little….

  9. Fantastic review, I am a big fan of Mr Cumberbatch, but to be honest this really isn’t my cup of tea. Glad you enjoyed it though my friend and you never know, I may one day give it a watch.

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you as always for reading and commenting. Yes, I liked it very much, and if you do decide to watch it in the future, I that you find it worth your time.

  10. Am yet to watch this movie. So far, for me, Boyhood was last years best.

  11. 13mesh says:

    I love this movie as well. Definitely last year’s favourite. Great review 🙂

  12. Great review, Robin! I loved this movie and I’ve already watched it more than 6 times. 🙂

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you very much for reading and for your compliment on my post.

      I am glad you loved the movie; you have me beat, I have only seen it twice, but I certainly will be watching it again at some point in the future.

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