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Author Topic: LFF: The Imitation Game (B)  (Read 1765 times)
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« on: October 08, 2014, 03:19:54 PM »

Pay attention. These are the words spoken by Benedict Cumberbatch’s Alan Turing in the opening scene of The Imitation Game. It’s an instruction both he and the film itself want followed. You are required to look and listen, to concentrate and be observant. To appreciate an historical figure that has to some degree been overlooked. The Imitation Game proudly brings the story of a fascinating person to the screen, chronicling the achievements of a unique individual who was, according to Norwegian director Morten Tyldum, a man “ahead of his time...outside of his time”.

The film begins in the early 1950s with the police looking into a burglary - the man who has been robbed is Alan Turing. Detective Robert Nock (Rory Kinnear) is unconvinced that everything is as it seems, and decides that it would be worthwhile not just to pursue the perpetrator, but to investigate Turing himself. The investigation uncovers secrets of both national and personal significance, with the story nimbly shifting between 1951, 1928, and wartime. When Turing meets naval Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance), offering his mathematical expertise in contribution to the war effort, he fails to ingratiate himself, expressing more interest in games and puzzles than serving his country, but convinces Denniston that he should be a part of the team tasked with breaking the “unbreakable” code machine employed by the German military, known as Enigma.

Turing distances himself from the scholars, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers that make up the team, and it would appear that he can’t help but do so - autism is a word that the filmmakers are hesitant to embrace, as they feel it’s not only problematic to diagnose someone long dead, but also that to place a label on someone they’ve endeavoured to depict as a fully-rounded person is reductive and contrary to the spirit of the film - but Turing is certainly, and ironically, plagued by difficulties in communicating with others. Authority figures and colleagues of Turing alike are routinely dismissed, ignored, insulted, or all three, with a mannered obliviousness that Cumberbatch plays to perfection. This, in addition to all the secrets, is a source of much of the drama, as Turing insists on independently working on a machine that can break Enigma, leaving the rest of the team to attempt other methods without his aid. Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) is a team member that Turing personally recruits, and there is an affinity between the pair due to their shared outsider status.

Justice and identity are central themes of the film, with Turing questioning his war-hero status, and being forced to conform by peers and prosecutors to varying extremes during a time when homosexuality was criminalised in England. There are scenes during which some performances are stilted, but standouts like Mark Strong, Matthew Goode and Charles Dance never fail to deliver when on screen. The Imitation Game doesn’t quite push the envelope in the same way its subject did, it is very much a by-the-numbers biopic, but it’s a story worth telling, well told. An entertaining and moving, if sometimes stolid story of triumph and tragedy.

Grade: B
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