Being based on codebreaker Alan Turing’s World War Two efforts, you would expect The Imitation Game to be highly inspiring. Alas it is not. While being fairly entertaining and interesting the film suffers in its lack of any attempt to break any thought-provoking ground. As a simple telling of an often over-looked story the film works well and informs us greatly of the highly innovative life that Turing led but is let down by how uninnovative the film actually is.
For those of you that don’t know, Alan Turing is widely known for being the father of computer science and essentially creating artificial intelligence. The film focuses mainly on Turing’s years building his Bombe machine, the instrument that cracked the Nazi’s enigma code. It is also inter-cut with flashbacks to Turing’s childhood in which he falls in love with a friend at school. In my view, these scenes are completely unnecessary and devoid of anything positive or worth mentioning. If anything they just create pointless melodrama that detracts from the thrill of whether Turing will crack the code or not.
Regardless, Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance, as the wartime Turing, is solid and convincing. He succeeds in portraying Turing’s intelligent and neurotic nature which plays highly on the theory that being mentally unstable comes with being a genius and pioneer of the world. His interactions with his colleagues are also perfect. Cumberbatch’s Turing prospers in being obnoxious and unsocial to his team, favouring his work over friendships. This aspect is used within the plot in a bit of an obvious and irritating way as Turing must win over his team in order to complete his machine. In saying this, the scene when Turing gives his workmates an apple each as a peace offering is fairly humourous.
Less impressive and on a whole new level of failure is Keira Knightley’s performance. Watching Knightley pretend to be intelligent made me want to rip my eyes out and eat them. It is also quite ridiculous that although she is actually English, throughout the film she sounds as if she is feigning a terrible English accent. Furthermore, the brief attempt to portray the lack of sexual equality in the mid-20th century is not thought out at all and could have been used more effectively. It is the same with Turing’s homosexuality. The film would have benefited greatly if there had been more focus on how horrendously the British Government treated Turing when they found out he was homosexual (a criminal act at the time) even though he played an extremely vital role in winning the war for the Allies.
As films about World War II go, The Imitation Game illustrates that the war wasn’t won simply through soldiers fighting each other, but its depiction of wartime Britain fails to resonate as much as other films set around World War II such as The King’s Speech (2010). For people that are interested in Alan Turing and his work then it is definitely worth a watch but if I was Turing myself I would be fairly dissappointed that my extraordinary work was portrayed in a particularly average film.
The Imitation Game is in cinemas now.
By Tom Johnson.