Dir: Morten Tyldum
The Imitation Game is a nice, well put together, period drama, about the cracking of the enigma code. Throw in a dash of sexual and gender politics and you have what could have been the most intriguing film of the year, sparking mass debate about one of Britain’s modern day heroes. Instead it’s an unremarkable, 40’s set version of The Social Network, but lacking the verve of David Fincher’s direction. The only parts saving this film from being outright dull are the performances, especially from Benedict Cumberbatch.
The film follows the life of Alan Turing. A Cambridge fellow, and genius Mathematician. He is employed in secret by the British Army in order to crack the Enigma code. Enigma is the coding machine which the Germans use to send communications. Crack the code, and the war is won. Whilst the rest of the team, headed up by Matthew Goode, attempt to crack the code each and every day, as the settings of the machine change every night, Turing sets out to build a machine which will crack every code, every day, at a pace much faster than a computer. The framing device of the film is a police investigation, with Alan Turing telling his story whilst being interrogated by a Policeman in the 50’s. His crime, being a homosexual.
I felt like the film had some major problems. One of them was that it had no real sense of identity. It simply didn’t know what film it wanted to be. It was very much like The Social Network in places, the framing device much like The Social Network’s court room, and Alan Turing being a lot like a 40’s Zuckerberg, with his inability to understand the social norms of the people around him. In other places it was like Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, with the arrival of Mark Strong’s MI6 operative the film delves into an espionage thriller. It tries on being a war movie, but that doesn’t fit, nor does it deliver on any real political commentary.
The biggest problem with The Imitation Game is that it is too politer. Too nice. Much like Keira Knightley’s character, who wants to make her way as a woman in a man’s world, but doesn’t want to offend her parents. The film lacks the courage of its own convictions. Using Turing’s conviction on the charges of being a homosexual as a framing device, meant that the film should have addressed how down right barbaric the laws in England used to be. Instead the film pulls it’s punches. It doesn’t judge anyone. The most dramatic moment in Turing’s life is left for the subtitles in the credits. Benedict Cumberbatch actually has to tell someone he is a homosexual halfway through the film for the audience to realise, as he appears so asexual throughout the film. It’s as if the film makers are trying their best not to offend anyone, even homophobes. I guess this may work during the awards season when it comes to the conservatives voting for it, but it dulls what could have been a much better film.
The Imitation Game is a thumbnail character sketch, which would interest anyone who doesn’t know about Alan Turing. It’s a well performed sketch, but it is still only a sketch.