Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game is a biopic about the life of Alan Turing. During World War II, the German army was using an unbreakable code – the Enigma code – to send all of their messages. Alan Turing was the English mathematician who helped Britain break this code. Now, given that awards season is coming up and this movie is a major contender, I’d like to give this film a special prize: Most ‘Weinstein Company’ movie of the year. The Weinstein Company is a major independent film studio, and although they only distributed the film, The Imitation Game has all of the markings of one of their movies. It’s manipulative and formulaic, but has a certain indie touch that allows the film to be sold as ‘Oscar’ bait.
The film opens with a “Based on a True Story” title card, which almost seems to lessen the credibility of the movie after so many ‘true story’ horror films. The movie is based off of historical events; I’m not sure why it needs to be clarified that these things actually happened. Given that the film is a biopic, you come to expect there to be a certain level of creative license used in retelling the facts, and The Imitation Game is no exception. Large events are very clearly distorted to create a more emotional response from the audience. Again, slightly changing how things happened is not unique to this biopic, but here it’s done in such a way where as an audience member you can’t help but question it.
The plot of the movie follows Turing through three critical periods of his life. Although the majority of the film takes place with Turing attempting to crack the Enigma code, there are flashbacks to him as a schoolboy, and the story is narrated while he talks to a police detective. This style of jumping between time periods allows for the film’s pace to seem relatively fast by telling multiple stories at once. It also allows for each plotline to jump ahead in time and not seem disjointed. However, the cracking of the Enigma code is by far the most interesting aspect of the movie, and while the other storylines are happening, I found myself waiting for the film to get back to the main plot. The school sequences give some insight to Turing as a character, but are often overly sentimental. And the police detective scenes are nearly entirely unnecessary.
In a conversation with the police detective, Turing introduces the concept of ‘The Imitation Game’, a game where a person has a conversation and determines if his partner is a human or a machine. It’s an interesting idea to mention in the film, because Turing is portrayed as a sort of human computer by Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch pulls out a great performance, playing Turing as a man who sees life extremely analytically. The ensemble tries its best to match Cumberbatch, and while each individual actor does a pretty good job, all of their roles are written as caricatures.
On the whole, The Imitation Game is a very decent movie. It’s competently put together and entertaining the entire way through. I was never bored watching the movie, but I was never taken to a place of extreme emotional investment. At the end of the day, the film lacks a certain original voice behind it. There’s no distinctive style to the film; any fill-in-the-blanks director could have made it. Ironically, the movie seems to be the result of some sort of Hollywood awards bait movie-making machine. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed it. 7/10.