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Imitation Game, The (2014)

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Score: 8/10

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 54 min.

Release Date: November 28th, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Morten Tyldum Actors: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Tuppence Middleton, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech

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eries of shots of characters sketching machine blueprints and solving numerical puzzles aren’t likely to summon feelings of fascination.  Yet “The Imitation Game” manages a surmounting level of intrigue from both its deft performances and its shuffling narrative of past, present, and post-war events.  Focusing on the personal and professional lives of several brilliant cryptologists and mathematicians struggling to break the German’s complex Enigma encryption system, this production reveals an impactful aspect for the outcome of World War II – as well as offering a lesser-known story of wartime heroics undrenched in typical visual bloodshed.

Chronicling the life of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), “The Imitation Game” dramatizes the trials and tribulations of the math prodigy and his quest to decipher an “unbreakable” military cryptograph.  During World War II, the Nazis utilized a complex encryption device named Enigma, which many believed to be unsolvable.  Desperate to decode the hundreds of German messages intercepted daily, British Secret Intelligence employs cryptographer Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) to lead a team of mathematicians and puzzle-solvers tasked with deciphering Enigma.

But eccentric genius Turing quickly convinces Winston Churchill to allow him to take control of the group, much to the dismay of skeptical Commander Denniston (Charles Dance).  Once in charge, Turing seeks the aid of brighter recruits and hires Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley, looking too sexy to be a nerd) to assist in his master plan: to construct his own “thinking” machine to combat the deviously intricate German cipher.  But breaking Enigma is just the beginning of Turing’s battles, as secrets from his personal life threaten to destroy his relationships and his career.

The most interesting thing about the struggle to unravel the Enigma code is not the technological process itself. As routinely demonstrated in “The Imitation Game,” the audience wouldn’t have the slightest idea about the methods utilized anyway, especially considering that Turing and his crew were some of the brightest minds in Europe. Instead, the most engrossing idea is that once the code is disentangled, it can’t be used to immediately save individuals, lest it be determined by the enemy that Enigma was compromised. Once again resorting to statistics, inhuman (and possibly cruel) choices must be made to select only specific battles for intervention and seemingly random bits of information to be passed on to allies. The revelation that thousands of innocent people had to be sacrificed in order to shorten the war and potentially save millions of lives is a very weighty concept indeed. The film entrancingly points out the unimaginable power and influence of military intel and its comrade, counterintelligence.

As it turns out, “The Imitation Game” isn’t so much about the events of Turing’s MI6 work as it is a character study. Though given a rather forceful message at the conclusion, which nearly downplays the strengths of the storytelling, the picture predominantly focuses on the very cinematic relationships between Turing, Clarke, and his associates, and Turing’s personal life, plagued by homosexuality during a historical moment when such predilections were considered criminal. Knightley and Cumberbatch provide sensational turns as geniuses who can’t completely function in regular social environments but have found an uncommon comfort in their shared understanding of the importance of mental abnormalities. Here, extreme intellect compromises the ability to interact with other people, to communicate effectively, and to comprehend sarcasm – almost as if Turing was an alien being. But these instances do impart hilarious comic relief.

Nevertheless, there’s something highly appealing about watching an “insufferable sod” who always remains several steps ahead of the average person, like Sherlock Holmes solving cases before the authorities are even aware of a crime – even if the audience must remain on the outside of the computing. And during Turing’s calculating, Alexandre Desplat’s hypnotic theme music triumphantly warps ordinary montages into moving moments. Suspense is impressively derived from a total absence of combat, while espionage creates gripping tension. Captivatingly, it’s not warlords or weaponry that have the greatest influence on the war, but unfathomably complex math.

– The Massie Twins

 



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