Is it possible to be a genius when you’re harboring secrets that damage everything that you’ve worked so hard to build? What happens when those secrets start to come to light? Will you be able to handle the fallout or learn to accept a new fate? That’s part of the premise behind the new movie “The Imitation Game” that followed the story of one unique man’s vision and how his private life threatened to destroy it.
“The Imitation Game” followed Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) who was a gifted mathematician, cryptanalyst, and a man harboring more than his fair share of secrets. In 1952, the case of a reported burglary in his home had brought some unwanted attention from the police that Turing wanted no part of. He dismissed his neighbors’ concerns as those of people being overly concerned about business that wasn’t theirs to look into. His rapid dismissmal of the cops left one intrepid officer thinking that he found a possible communist spy that led him to falsely getting permission to obtain Turing’s war records to dig up any dirt he could find to satisfy his suspicions. While the cop digs deeper, viewers get to see for themselves what Turing did during the war effort. He was part of a team that helped build a machine that broke the German enigma machine and helped the allies win World War II. Unfortunately, he got off to a rocky start by not playing well with others: mainly his team and even his superiors. That all changed when Turing was able to take charge of the team, even though he was always skating on very thin ice with everyone around him. The arrival of another math whiz named Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) gave Turing a confidante and someone who helped made him relatable to his team members. Eventually, she became a valuable member of the team, even though Turing and Joan entered an engagement of convenience to appease her family. As the war progressed, Turing’s love for his machine “Christopher” became tied into a painful memory from his past that won’t likely be solved, until all of his secrets are exposed. What would become of Turing and his work when his secrets suddenly came to light?
In terms of questions, many viewers became very aware that Turing’s fate was going to be a bleak one since the film started off with him waiting to be grilled in a police interrogation room for the mere crime of being a gay man in a time period when it was considered a crime. It’s a shame that the man’s genius couldn’t save him from a crueler fate that made his sentence a rather inhumane one where he chose to go through a brutal treatment in order to avoid a prison sentence and go back to working on his beloved machine. The reason that Turing was so attached to the machine made sense at the very end of the film when it was revealed why the movie was peppered with the occasional flashback involving his relationship with a schoolboy chum. Sure, the scenes depicted a chaste relationship that allowed Turing to truly flourish as himself. Those scenes also packed an emotional wallop when it was revealed as to why that relationship came to an end, which seemed to stick with Turing for decades after the fact. As for the movie itself, it wisely kept most of the story around the events of Turing’s war work because that was where the story had the most impact. This part of the story had enough intrigue, science and twists to make it appear more like a spy novel than a true story, which made it all the more amazing that the story was true as Hollywood could make it. It also helped that the presence of Knightley’s Joan was a pioneer in herself as a woman in a mostly man’s world who was able to join the boy’s club after getting in under the guise of a secretary’s position. Hopefully, her story will one day be told as well, but that day might not happen for some time.
As for breakout performances, Cumberbatch and Knightley led the pack since their characters were the driving force behind most of the film’s strongest storylines. Cumberbatch provided Turing with both a sense of arrogance and heartbreak that made viewers feel sorry for the character even after he was at his worst in the scene prior. He designed his version of Turing to be a misunderstood genius who knew that he was smarter than the average person, but he had no ability of communicating with others until he found one particular friend to help him come out of his shell. That first happened when he was in school and the other time was when he was with Joan. With those two friendships, Turing could truly open up to others without fear of being judged. In the beginning of the film, Cumberbatch walked the delicate line of making Turing another unsympathetic genius that used his intellect to get everything he ever wanted. By the end of the film, viewers had a very different picture of Turing after he was sentenced for his crime and began his physically damaging treatment. Cumberbatch turned Turing into a man who loved his machine to the point where he would give up his sanity for it. He couldn’t bear to be away from Christopher at all costs. Knightley, on the other hand, had the more challenging task of being the more supportive player who worked behind the scenes and still packed quite a punch. Well, she did literally pack quite a punch when she actually slapped Cumberbatch’s Turing, which was an action that was unexpected but explained everything the character was feeling. Knightley and Cumberbatch did have a strong on-screen rapport that showcased how they trusted one another as they navigated some rather emotionally intense material. Let’s hope that they get to work together again sooner rather than later.
“The Imitation Game” is currently in theaters. Check your listings for locations and showtimes.
Movie Rating: PG-13
Verdict: Cumberbatch and Knightley delivered masterful performances as they delicately portrayed a complex relationship during a very complicated time period.
Movie Score: 4 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)