Movie Review: The Imitation Game

Those who know me well know that I am more than a bit of an Anglophile. I’m also a bit of a Benedict Cumberbatch fan. (I say “a bit” because I don’t feel about BTCC the same way that I do about Tom Hiddleston…which is to say that I have a standing agreement with my mother that if the opportunity ever presents itself she’ll throw me under TWH’s feet.) Anyway, given this information, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that as soon as I saw the trailer for The Imitation Game I knew that I had to see the movie.

Saturday evening, I finally got that chance. I went with a few friends-fellow Anglophiles and BTCC fans. I went in with high expectations, and mercifully, I was not disappointed.

The movie tells the story of Alan Turing, a mathematician who worked for the British government during World War II. Turing was involved in the project to break the Nazi Enigma code. He was also one of fathers of the modern computer.

Turing was an immensely complex human being. He was a genius although I’m not entirely sure that he would agree with my assessment of his brilliance or that he would appreciate my calling him thusly. And that may tell you a bit about his personality. While very intelligent, Turing struggled with social skills; the film says that he didn’t have many friends as a child, and he tells his one childhood friend that his mother calls him an “odd duck.” Based on the film’s presentation of Turing, I’d have to agree with that assessment. And while I find Turing endearing, I suspect that in real life I would struggle to like him at times. He is a person whose genius I could respect and admire, but I could see why others might find him difficult.

That said, the movie was impressive. The cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Allen Leech, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, and Rory Kinnear) was strong; I knew just from the cast list that this movie had serious potential. And the cast didn’t fail.

Mark Strong put in an impressive performance as Stewart Menzies, head of MI-6. Unlike my usual experience of Strong, here he was NOT the bad guy. (I know; I was surprised too.) Instead, he was compelling, a strong (pun intended) character determined to win the war at whatever costs necessary.

Keira Knightley did about as well as I expected. I’m not a fan of Keira, but I thought that she did well with what she had. She provided an adequate performance, and as Joan Clarke, she made a valiant effort to try to humanize the socially awkward Turing.

I could keep going, but I won’t bore you. Matthew Goode was definitely more than a pretty face-although I’ve no objections to Goode’s face. Kinnear was a sort of stand-in for the audience as Turing attempts to explain what he did during the War a few years later. Leech was charming and endearing. And Dance provided me with frustration but also with an understanding of how others viewed Turing. The child actors (Alex Lawther and Jack Bannon) who played the young Turing and his friend showed talent and maturity that offers hope for the future. Simply put, the supporting cast was excellent. They added depth to the story and helped draw the audience into the story.

But of course you’re probably wondering how I felt about Benedict. Well, he’s brilliant. The usually smooth spoken Cumberbatch stammered and stumbled over his words. He was awkward and uncomfortable and yet arrogant, and he was believable. I’ve seen Cumberbatch as Sherlock, as William Pitt the Younger, as Paul Marshall…looking at his IMDB credits, I realize that I’ve seen over half of the movies/TV shows that he’s been in. I’ve seen him play so many different characters, and he’s always different. He doesn’t play the same character over and over again, and that (to me) is the genius of Benedict Cumberbatch. He brought Turing to life on the screen, and he made me love the character. As I said earlier, I suspect that if I knew Turing in real life he probably would have frustrated me at times, but BTTC showed us the person inside, the real person.

That doesn’t mean that I understand or agree with everything that Turing did. He made some decisions later in his all-too short life that I’m not sure I would have made. Not being him, I can’t understand or change him, but there were definitely moments where I thought “I would have done X instead of Y” or “If I were Turing, I’d have done…” But one of the great and remarkable things about life that is that we are ultimately all individuals and we all make our own choices. (Also, I live in a radically different world than his, and so I don’t experience the world in the same way that he did.)

Overall, I loved the movie. It was heartbreaking, but I needed that in a way. I needed to have my horizons broadened. I need to see a movie that taught me something not only about history but also about humanity.

It was brilliant, and I highly recommend it.

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