There may be three British men vying for the Best Actor Oscar. There is plenty of buzz surrounding Timothy Spall’s Mr. Turner and Eddie Redmayne’s performance in Professor Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything, and keeping them company is the ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch, star of The Imitation Game.
With WWII raging and the Germans edging closer to victory, it was one thing seizing an Enigma machine but an entirely more challenging task cracking the code that changed daily. Mathematician, Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) was recruited by the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, Britain’s code breaking centre. Heading a select team in Hut 8, while his aggrieved colleagues battled daily to crack each new configuration of the Enigma code, Turing was obsessed with creating Christopher, an innovative machine designed to think faster than even the team of brilliant cryptanalysts aiming to shorten the war.
Based on truth, director Morten Tyldum’s (Headhunters) film is incomplete as a biopic but draws the viewer in as a historical thriller where the enemy is time and the most visible battles, both literal and emotional, occur in a small hut with his colleagues and superior, Commander Denniston (Charles Dance). Turing’s life is précised and the impact of his life’s work is only hinted at in the final summary. Turing accelerated the development of computers, he became a figurehead for the campaign for equality and the legalization of homosexuality, was instrumental in the shortening of the war and his reward was persecution, prosecution and a royal pardon almost sixty years after his apparent suicide.
Cumberbatch must be a strong candidate for at least a BAFTA if not an Oscar for his portrayal of Turing. There must always have been a danger with this casting of him flipping into “Sherlock” mode, given the similarity of the characters, and yet you rarely equate the two performances which is quite a trick to pull off. Knightley is also excellent in her role. Charles Dance, Mark Strong and Allen Leech all deliver excellent supporting performances. But particularly effective is Matthew Goode who is a magnetic big-screen performer and who should be getting more leading actor roles.
The Art Direction in this film is excellent which paints a nicely nostalgic vision of war-time Britain. The effective music score is once again by Alexandre Desplat helps ‘The Imitation Game’ be one of the best films of the year.
The Imitation Game joins the list of 2014’s best films, but saddently it will not join in my top 10 list of this year. Don’t get me wrong the acting, direction, writing and score are extremely well crafted and deserves some recognition, but you can tell that we are rapidly approaching the awards season again by the quality of the films on offer. There are too many good films this year that most of them just won’t fit in my list.
But overall, this is a great watch, particularly for a slightly more mature audience that values acting, story and emotion. The Imitation Game is highly recommended.
The Imitation Game gets an 8.4/10.