‘Are you paying attention? Good. You will listen closely and you will not judge me until you are finished.’ These are the first words we hear Benedict Cumberbatch say as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, as he faces interrogation from a Manchester policeman over ‘gross indecency’ with another man. In actuality this speech is being made to us, the audience, as well as the officer and sets up the crux of the film; who was Alan Turing? The Imitation Game isn’t simply a film about Bletchley park and the cracking of the enigma machine, but a character study of Turing himself; an appropriately enigmatic man who was as complex as the machines he would go on to build.
Boasting a most welcome fast moving narrative, screenwriter Graham Moore flits between three different points of time in Turing’s life; his time at boarding school, his time at Bletchley park and finally the years after the war, in an attempt to paint a picture of who Alan Turing really was. ‘Am I a machine? A man? A war hero or a criminal?’ Turing asks in the same interrogation sequence, once again challenging us as an audience to decipher his character. This is one of the great things about the film, it never tells us how to feel about Turing, but allows us to make our own judgements by presenting us with hints and clues to his real character; hints that include possible autism and a distaste for violence rooted in years of being bullied.
A genius whose vision went further than the war and realised the worlds first computer, Turing provides an interesting subject to follow through the course of the film, and is performed brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch. I’ve never really bought into the hyperbole surrounding him as an actor but this is the first time I’ve really been blown away by his acting. Whether that’s due to him becoming increasingly comfortable in his own skin or the fact that he’s playing a character outside of popular culture, I found that I was looking past the actor and seeing the subject of the film. He puts in a raw and honest performance that surely deserves a few awards come the new year.
Away from Cumberbatch and the probing of Alan Turing’s persona, The Imitation Game does provide the intrigue and thrills as well, with a story involving double agents and impossible life or death decisions as the group of engineers, linguists and mathematicians are put in the position of deciding which attacks to prevent and allow in the best interests of the war. It’s a very handsome looking film too; the cinematography proving most memorable and director Morten Tyldum perfectly captures the look and feel of the time in which it is set. This all gives the film a very classical feel, as if made decades ago, and it enhances the viewing experience. It’s the combination of a riveting thriller and an absorbing central character that makes The Imitation Game such a memorable and enjoyable watch. It’s a stirring glimpse at an important historical figure that will make you laugh (it does have a surprising amount of humour) and make you think more about the emotional complexities of the film as opposed to the technical ones. Powerful and engaging, it’s one of the years must best films and a must see.
Image credit to http://www.filmnation.com