1951, Manchester. This is when and where The Imitation Game starts. The story begins by Alan Turing's police interrogation on his actions during the Second World War, which is how he narrates his own story. It then tells you what the Imitation Game is about: cracking the German code Enigma. Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is fascinated by the machine and admits that “this is the most difficult puzzle in the world,” a code said to be “unbreakable”, and yet, with a team of talented and incredibly intelligent people, he led to the Allied victory, shortened the war by more than two years, and saved 14 million people thanks to the machine he has created to decode Enigma. After all, “what if only a machine can defeat another machine?”
The film jumps between three timelines, which may be confusing. It is actually separated between the war period, Turing's teenage years in his boarding school, and from 1951 onwards, the creepy and dark atmosphere of the police interrogation and the post-war time, when everyone's lives go back to normal – well almost. Yet, you get accustomed to it after some minutes and can be intensively in the story.
At school, Turing was rejected and bullied because he was smarter than his fellow-classmates. His only friend, Christopher, actually makes him realise that it is not because he is smarter, but because he is different. As an adult, Turing even says: “Just because something thinks differently from you, does that mean it's not thinking?” And he is indeed a genius mathematician, thinking in his own way, already fond of codes, games and crossword puzzles. The latter will make him cross path with Miss Clarke, played by the sensitive and refined Keira Knightley, who brings a feminine touch in a world where only men can usually work, and where women are seen as strangers and less desirable.
Cumberbatch and Knightley prove that they can play everything with perfection. The first one puts aside his mysterious and funny Sherlock Holmes for a moment to endorse the historical role of a man persecuted for his homosexuality at a time when it was punished as a crime of indecency and punished by a jail sentence or chemical castration through medicines. The second one can play a pirate, a Duchess or Miss Clarke, here really helpful as she soothes the anger of the men who cannot decode Enigma. Among others, Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) shines by his contradictory – yet endearing – temper, driven by anger and his will to crack the code while hating Turing for being a so-called useless element in the team. He finally proves to be a great support needed in that period.
In fact, unity seems like a keyword to describe the movie. You can only achieve such a task as winning the war if you have some support. You cannot act alone. This is where you see the evolution of the protagonist. He is solitary, but attempts to open to the others with difficulty, rather than being only in his own mind, because he indirectly needs their support. During most of the movie, the spectator seems to be in his thoughts, in his head, trying to understand the code and to find a solution. There is a kind of “addiction” throughout the movie: even you, seeing it around 70 years later, you want to know how Enigma works.
What is also striking, and makes you being right inside the movie, living the story, is the atmosphere. This is definitely one of the best points. The director, Morten Tyldum, has mixed real films from the war with his own movie, letting some bombings or plane attacks appear while the team is working on the code, which makes it more real. The scenes also take place most of the time in dark places – mainly the room where Turing is creating his machine, or outside at night. Everything should remain top-secret and hidden. The Second World War period is perfectly re-created, with old cars, period suits and hairstyles and the decoration of the houses and offices, and the whole seems natural enough to be believed to be true. Moreover, the music adds to this atmosphere with mysterious, emotional or sometimes solemn songs played during the action. The images may prevent some of the spectators to listen to it carefully, but listening to the soundtrack alone may be a good experience to feel this atmosphere even further.
For his splendid acting, Benedict Cumberbatch was nominated for different awards (BAFTA, Oscars, Golden Globes...), and even though Eddie Redmayne won them, Cumberbatch's portrayal of Turing has been applauded by the critics from all over the world. In the cinema, when the light turned on, most of the audience was crying. Crying of sadness for this emotional story, but happy to have seen it and to know about a man who is too often forgotten. Alan Turing's story should thus be heard of, as a legacy, to know that despite his condemned homosexuality which led him to commit suicide, he was one of the men who saved a part of the world and has invented what we call today “computers”.
The Imitation Game.
Directed by Morten Tyldum.
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Allen Leech.
Adapted from Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.
Produced by Black Bear Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment and Bristol Automotive.
Here is the trailer