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The Imitation Game




The Imitation Game
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

01/01/15
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



The Imitation Game 

Nerds help to turn the tide against the Nazis in World War II by breaking the unbreakable Engima code in The Imitation Game, the Alan Turing biopic that will make you wish you paid more attention in math.
Because it can win wars! How super cool is that? Maybe if they had showed this movie before launching into calculus, fewer of us lit-inclined nerds would throw up our hands and go back to reading The Great Gatsby for the dozenth time. (I feel like my Gatsby-to-math high school education was rather heavily weighted to the Gatsby side of the scale, despite how much more important math turns out to be in everyday life than, say, dissecting the symbolism of the green light.)
Mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is called to service as part of the British Government Code and Cypher School. He is put on a team whose mission is to crack Enigma, a sophisticated code machine used by Germany to send encrypted messages to its various offices and forces across Europe. The code itself changes daily, making decrypting it nearly impossible, as each day there are, as they explain, millions of millions of possible variations for exactly what code is being used. A mathematician and a pioneer in the field of computers (years before they were called computers), Turing devises a plan not to try to break any one code but to develop a machine that could break every code, every day. Not a people person, Turing explains his plan by basically calling everyone else on the team stupid. Eventually, he convinces Winston Churchill to let him lead the team and to fund his machine, which runs a hefty £100,000. The team — core members of whom are Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), John Cairncross (Allen Leech) and lady code-breaker Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) — eventually warms to Alan and his idea, thanks in part to the humanizing efforts of Joan, and even sticks up for Alan when the local military mucketymuck (Charles Dance) tries to shut him down. 
This story of Alan’s wartime work is interwoven with Alan in the early 1950s, when a break-in at his house leads a police detective (Rory Kinnear) to think he may have stumbled on a Soviet spy, and a stretch of young Alan’s (Alex Lawther) teenage years when his miserable life at boarding school was made briefly bearable by Christopher (Jack Bannon), his only close friend and his first love. As most people in the audience who think “cool, Alan Turing biopic!” probably know going in, the secret he’s hiding in 1952 isn’t treason but his sexual orientation. At the time in Britain, male homosexuality was a crime, punishable with possible prison time and certain loss of security clearance.  
The Imitation Game has perfect British-actor-beloved-by-Americans pedigree: not just the great Cumberbatch or the surprisingly charming Knightley but also Goode (the new maybe-love interest on The Good Wife), Leech (former chauffeur Tom Branson on Downton Abbey), Dance (the late Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones) and Mark Strong, who is always up for playing shady types, as an MI6 agent. And sure, you could say that a lot of what Cumberbatch is doing here we’ve seen him do before, most notably on the Sherlock TV show. But Sherlock is a different kind of difficult loner than Turing. While both men have an inner emotional core that rarely shows itself, when it does show it’s in different ways, with different Cumberbatchian nuances. And, not to personify too much the cliche of the Cumberbatch fangirl, but those nuances are wonderfully delicious to watch. 
Cumberbatch brings an intensity to Turing, a passion that makes it easy to connect with the man, even if I couldn’t exactly follow his math or understand precisely what a leap his suggestions about computers were for the time. Though I saw this movie on the same day as Unbroken, and though Unbroken seemed to go to so much greater an effort to ram home just how Triumphant and Courageous its Good War story is, The Imitation Game, which mixes understatement with its big “this could end the war” pronouncements, was far more richly emotional and touching. We get to know the man and the personality at the center of this movie in a way we never do the man at the center of Unbroken. This deft blend of historical import and personal storytelling is likely why Cumberbatch (for best actor), Knightley (for best supporting actress) and the movie itself (for best drama, best screenplay and best score) have been nominated for Golden Globes.
The Imitation Game offers a look at a cool slice of history as well as one man’s compelling story. A-
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking. Directed by Morten Tyldum with a screenplay by Graham Moore (from a book by Andrew Hodges), The Imitation Game is an hour and 54 minutes long and distributed by The Weinstein Company. 





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