THE IMITATION GAME (2014)
(directed by Morten Tyldum)
**** (out of 5)
> This popular film is solid oldschool filmmaking. from promising Norwegian director Morten Tyldum the creative mind behind the riveting thriller HEADHUNTERS in 2011. It’s a biopic about the troubled life of Alan Turing, the man who cracked the “uncrackable” German codes produced by their ingenious Enigma machine during World War II. Alan figured the only way to reverse the cryptography of the machine was with another machine- a “thinking machine” that would become the predecessor of the modern computer.
. Current sensation Benedict Cumberbatch (familiar to many as unlikely TV heartthrob Sherlock Holmes), is very good in the central role, as is Keira Knightly as his only female counterpart in this otherwise male-centric story. (Back then, the stiff upper lip Brits did not believe war or academia were a woman’s domain.) The whole group labors feverishly against the clock, as all the work of the day is undone come each midnight, when the enemy recalibrates Enigma to defeat decoding efforts. They also fight shortsighted bureaucrats who threaten to shut down their expensive codebreaking project at any point. Alan is the unequalled resident genius, but he is also a cold oddball, coming off as clueless and arrogant and socially awkward. It becomes clear that Alan was, to some degree, what we would today call autistic, when he tells a friend that people are like cyphers because they don’t say what they mean, and he can’t read what anyone is really thinking by the expressions on their faces.
. In telling this gripping narrative, Mr. Tyldum presents us with a film with impeccable credentials: a compelling true-life thriller with the highest of stakes: millions of human lives! The production design is first-rate, providing a palpable sense of time and place that resonates believably throughout. The fact that I found the plotline completely predictable until the film was nearly over did not impact my enjoyment one bit, because the content was always so compelling- particularly in the literate script, the fine score and the dynamite acting.
> Ultimately, it’s a pretty heartbreaking trip, as the socially outcast Mr. Turing lived a difficult life, but THE IMITATION GAME is a very worthy companion-piece to the other film on the same subject: Michael Apted’s 2001 film ENIGMA, articulately penned by the brilliant wordsmith Tom Stoppard. See them both.
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