All the parts fit together—like the hand-forged computer at
the center of the story—in The Imitation
Game, a thoroughly absorbing film based on the life of Alan Turing, who
helped crack the notorious German enigma code during World War II. All the right
ingredients are here in perfect measure: a fascinating narrative, a superlative
cast, and a vivid sense of time and place.
I can’t imagine anyone better suited to the role of the
brilliant but socially awkward, sexually repressed mathematician than Benedict
Cumberbatch. He elicits our empathy even as he alienates the people around him,
because Graham Moore’s screenplay (and Cumberbatch’s performance) set him up so
well as an underdog-hero. We first meet him in 1951 when he arouses the suspicion
of a local police detective in Manchester, then witness his recruitment by the
British government at the beginning of the war, and finally flash back to his
youth and the incidents at school that helped shape the man he would become.
The film then seamlessly hopscotches back and forth in time, never losing its
sense of purpose or leaving us confused; that in itself is quite a feat.
In his English-language debut, Norwegian director Morten
Tyldum (who made the equally intricate Jo Nesbø thriller Headhunters), confidently realizes every bit of drama, suspense,
humor, and character nuance in Graham Moore’s canny screenplay. How closely
does the movie resemble the real-life incidents it depicts? I have no way of
knowing. I just know that the material has been shaped into an extremely
satisfying piece of entertainment.
Cumberbatch is surrounded by expert players, including Keira
Knightley as the only woman smart enough to be part of the code-breaking team
at Bletchley Park, and such talented actors as Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles
Dance, and Mark Strong. There are no colorless parts in this beautifully
crafted film. The story also benefits from a propulsive score by the brilliant
and versatile Alexandre Desplat.
The Imitation Game
is one of those rare movies I could happily watch again, to savor its
performances and digest the provocative story all over again. It is certainly
one of the year’s finest films.