Well, readers, we have arrived at the LAST new film review of 2014 for me, and I suppose given my journey in starting this website and the subsequent adventures that have come from it, that it would be another indie film offering, one I just viewed today December 31st, and that it would be one of the best ones screened. So, for the FINAL review of 2014, I present to you…”The Imitation Game”.
SEE THE TRAILER HERE
Given to us by Norwegian director Morten Tyldum, based on true events, and from the novel “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges, we initially begin in 1951 Manchester, England where the primary player in the tale, mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is being held in a police station for reasons yet unknown, other than us previously being made aware of an earlier circumstance involving an apparent break-in at Turing’s home, being investigated by Detective Robert Nock (Rory Kinnear). We see Turing’s eccentricity immediately, but the story then shifts back to 1939 as England enters WWII and Turing makes quite an entrance onto the scene at the country’s top-secret code-breaking school at Bletchley Park when interviewed by British High Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance) who at first thinks Turing “off” until Alan mentions the German Enigma machine, whose then impossible codes and messages are what are needed to be deciphered. Initially gathering other minds to work as a team to figure the Enigma’s mysteries out, it becomes evident Turing is thinking on a whole different level. After petitioning Winston Churchill himself to get funding for his proposed solution/vision, the final team is comprised of Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), John Cairncross (Allen Leech), Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard), and two other members selected by Turing personally after they pass a crossword test he creates, Jack Good (James Northcote) and Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). We are also privy to the fact that British Intelligence at MI6 has their eye on Turing and his team in a highly ranked agent there, Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong). Throughout the story, the film also takes us back to key times during Turing’s sad boarding school days, as we see the beginning hints of a fact we already know about him. Also continuing to briefly flash forward again to the interrogation room in 1951 Manchester, the whole journey unfolds as Turing recollects creating “Christopher”, the machine that will ultimately change the course of the war for England. But amidst this is the inner turmoil Turing faces about his hidden homosexuality over the next 2 years. Adding to the pressure are Denniston, who’s completely adamant in wanting RESULTS with no desire to wait, the team’s internal conflicts with Turing, Menzies’ shadowy presence in the background, and then the crushing truth that is revealed even WHEN the Enigma code is figured out. Post war, the ultimate price paid by those involved, especially Turing, is wrenching, as accomplishment is overshadowed by the specter of other choices and secrets brought to light. More details = spoilers.
Folks…this is one SUPERBLY executed film…intense at its center, yet consistently, heartbreakingly personal, and even lightened with some moments of genuine humor. Plus, let me get this out of the way up front…for anyone who may have read (or perhaps heard) that the story’s FOCUS was all on Turing being gay….that is completely untrue. Yes, there IS that underlying tangent, and it IS addressed at multiple points during the movie….BUT, at least in this reviewer’s opinion, NOT prevalently. The REAL focus here is ultimately Turing and his team’s urgent race against the clock and a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to crack while a world war rages on and a country is counting on THEM to provide the necessary answer to turn the tide. Benedict Cumberbatch is an absolute marvel here. His portrayal of Turing as the incredible genius he was while being fraught with fears of the secret he holds inside about himself and the other ghosts of his past is acted out in TOTAL earnestness, making you FEEL every emotional state he’s experiencing within the character. By the finale and seeing the aftermath of everything Turing went through, I was completely moved to tears. Knightley likewise infused the character of Clarke with that sense of realism…someone who also had this amazing intellect and yet held the desire to nurture Turing, even KNOWING his interest in her was not beyond friendship and co-workers, AND that she STILL cared even after feeling he was a total monster. The rest of this cast, each in their own ways, were ALL truly solid and helped paint this picture of people placed under extraordinary pressures to grant the impossible and to honor their nation with the efforts. And I love that I was CAPTURED by this film the ENTIRE time. Completely engrossed from beginning to end. Visually solid as well, the images of the war intermixed with the rest of the tale actually assisted in re-emphasizing the dire need breaking the Enigma represented. Everything about the content in this film was handled exceptionally well, and so outside the THEMES addressed involving Turing’s sexuality, there was actually not much to really warn viewers about other than SOME language, as it ALL was handled tastefully. What we have here is a fantastic piece of independent filmmaking that continues to show HOW not only a true story can draw moviegoers in, but that projects LIKE this are SO often necessary to BRING the more straight forward, intensely HUMAN stories out, and where we get to see actors ACT. A final thought, though, is that the facts displayed at the end of the movie are sobering, and knowing such a brilliant mind and equally brilliant accomplishments were initially treated as they were is quite potent on the heart and mind.
As always, this is all for YOUR consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!