Benedict Cumberbatch brings British mathematician Alan Turing to life in The Imitation Game
60 years after his tragic death in 1954, codebreaker Alan Turing’s extraordinary story is finally being told to the world in The Imitation Game, a stunning new historical thriller starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightey.
To coincide with its European premiere at the 58th BFI London Film Festival, I was treated to an exclusive sneak preview of the most eagerly anticipated film of the year, and boy did it live up to expectation.
The Imitation Game tells the story of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), the British mathematician and pioneering computer scientist who helped to crack Nazi Germany’s Enigma code and win World War II. The historical thriller spans the key periods of Turing’s life, from his unhappy teenage years at boarding school to his time at Bletchley Park and his tragic post-war decline following his conviction for homosexuality.
Benedict Cumberbatch is outstanding as Turing, playing the hyper intelligent yet socially awkward genius with emotionally tailored perfection. His masterful performance has been tipped for an Oscar and deservedly so as it’s arguably his best career performance to date. Cumberbatch’s knack of bringing Turing’s eccentricities to life in an intriguing yet endearing way is effortlessly naturalistic. If this doesn’t win him an Oscar nomination, I don’t know what will.
Keira Knightley’s supporting performance as Joan Clarke is equally excellent. Historians have criticised Graham Moore’s screenplay as ‘hyping up’ Clarke’s role to more than it actually was but personally I thought Knightley’s character (who was actually Turing’s fiancée for a short time) was played with poise and perfection.
A stellar British cast star alongside Cumberbatch and Knightley as Turing’s team of code-breakers, including Matthew Goode fellow code-breaker Hugh Alexander, Mark Strong as MI6 intelligence officer Maj. Gen. Stewart Menzies and Charles Dance as the harsh and chauvinistic Cdr. Alastair Denniston. All give a superb performance, making the already impressive The Imitation Game even stronger.
Surprisingly, the film downplayed Turing’s homosexuality. Whilst many critics believe Turing’s sexuality could have been explored further, Cumberbatch defends the script saying it is “not an exploration of someone’s sex life”. The film does make strong reference to it at the end however, when Turing is criminally prosecuted for gross indecency, a now-outdated criminal offence stemming from his admission of maintaining a homosexual relationship.
Overall, the film has received positive reviews with critics applauding both Cumberbatch’s and Knightley’s performances. Empire called it a “superb thriller” while Peter Debruge of Variety described the film as “beautifully written, elegantly mounted and poignantly performed.” Personally, I thought the film was excellent with Alexandre Desplat’s superb score, Maria Djurkovic’s stunning production design and Morten Tyldum excellent direction, all working together to deliver a fascinating story which quietly pays homage to a man who has changed so many of our lives.
Strong, stirring and tragic, The Imitation Game is a strong Oscar contender and arguably the best British film of the year. A stirring tribute to the man to whom we owe so much.
The Imitation Game is on general release in the UK on 14 November 2014.