By Ashley Minyard
In the latest biopic melodrama called The Imitation Game, we get a glance at the life of Alan Turing, the mathematical genius who built a machine to crack the German Enigma code, thereby helping the Allies win World War II. Using a crossword puzzle in the newspaper, Turing tracks down a team of quick thinkers and puzzle solvers. Together they toil in Hut 8, working daily to unscramble messages before midnight when the key resets and their work is for naught.
In the film, Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is portrayed as a shy and socially awkward master of cryptology who stubbornly sticks to his guns to build a machine that will decipher Nazi messages. With the help of the equally brainy Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), who constantly struggles to rise above the expectations of her gender and prove her worth, and the rest of his code-cracking team, he must beat the clock to save as many lives as possible.
Although the plot of the story is slow moving, director Morten Tyldum kept things rolling through jumps in time. Turing’s inner thoughts and reserved personality are exposed through a flashback to his childhood in 1930, watching his struggles with schoolmates and the boy who kept him going. A jump to Turing’s post-war life in 1952 confirms suspicions of his homosexuality and brings the storyline full circle, with Turing himself divulging his past to an investigator who is suspicious about his confidential military records. These jumps in time fill out Turing’s complicated character and pay him the tribute he deserves by exposing his brilliance, revealing his inner struggle and justifying his series of personal enigmas.
Benedict Cumberbatch, who seems to have a knack for portraying men that are too smart for their own good, wonderfully fulfills the role of Turing. Although Turing is significantly more intelligent than his peers, he is portrayed as a man confused by social interactions that results in life as an outcast. Cumberbatch has a remarkable ability to come off as oblivious to human interaction and social niceties, earlier seen in his role as the harshly unfeeling Sherlock, but manages to hold back the sociopathic tendencies for the part of Turing. Alex Lawther as young Alan also achieves this, mirroring the character Cumberbatch portrayed beautifully. The character is filled with emotional complexities, yet both Lawther and Cumberbatch manage to pull off the full spectrum of Turing’s personality.
Keira Knightly also succeeds in capturing the spotlight, as she adds yet another brilliant and strong young woman to her repertoire. Full of charm, Joan Clarke stuns Turing by beating his crossword puzzle in mere minutes. She rises above the expectations held for her as a woman by putting herself on par with the boys of Hut 8 and assisting in deciphering the code. Unfortunately, her character could have used some more development, as most of her energies were spent on the odd relationship with Turing. However, she and Turing still manage to steal the attention, making the rest of the cast fade in comparison.
Overall, The Imitation Game offers an intriguing tribute to the man who was ultimately brought down by the country he worked to protect. It provides an exciting and dramatic glimpse of history, while exposing Alan Turing’s secret life in a melancholy yet respectful manner. Thanks to Tyldum’s brilliant film, the world can finally know the man behind the machine.