Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock) portrays yet another enigmatic and eccentric mind in the latest well-timed biopic from the Weinstein company that seems custom built for Awards season.
A cynic could label this work as nothing more than “Oscar-bait” but to do so would devalue the brilliance that is Mr. Cumberbatch.
Set in England during World War II, Cumberbatch plays genius code-breaker and unknown war hero, Alan Turing. The majority of the film focuses its energy on Turing and his top-secret team who are charged to accomplish the impossible; crack the German’s Enigma machine and unlock codified Nazi war strategies. Achieving the unattainable could end the war and save millions of innocent lives as a result.
Norwegian director Morten Tyldum paces and positions his film as a mathematical thriller with mostly riveting results. Accompanied with stellar performances from Mark Strong, Matthew Goode and a surprising Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game is shrouded with plenty of intrigue, mystery and secrecy to win over audiences and award voters.
But despite a script that empowers Cumberbatch with a litany of quick-witted quips and enviable dialogue, the film’s greatest sin is how disinterested it is with unveiling and exploring the totality of Turing’s character.
Alan Turning was a closet homosexual, during a time that outlawed such practices and labelled them as gross indecency under the law. Tyldum glosses over Turing’s homosexuality, referring to it only in passing or in theory.
Turing was a tortured soul whose post-war years were filled with pain, torment and persecution. To be unrecognised and uncelebrated for your miraculous deeds, yet unceremoniously vilified for your sexual orientation, is an enormous tragedy. It seems a missed opportunity and a shame that we’re only shown a glimpse of a part of his story that demands far greater exploration than what we’re given.
Make no mistake about it, The Imitation Game is a fine film by all accounts. It’s well-crafted, smartly written and exceptionally acted, but barring Cumberbatch’s nuanced and gutsy performance, the film feels a tad too safe and conventional for subject matter that is anything but ordinary.
THE VERDICT: 3.5/5
Genre: Drama, War, Thriller
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Rory Kinnear
Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Written by: Graham Mason
Country: UK, US
Budget: $14 million
Running time: 114 minutes