Written by: Graham Moore
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance
With many moving and covert aspects in trying to win a war, it becomes simpler to credit larger elements as the reason for victory and defeat. However, The Imitation Game seeks to highlight a vital but mostly hidden element as to why the Allied Forces won World War II. While it does not have the excitement of war, the mathematical element of what gets accomplished by these characters enters into some intriguing moral and ethical dilemmas.
During World War II, with Germany bombarding the Allied Forces, England decides to bring together their brightest mathematicians together with the hope of them cracking the code of the way Germans communicate through the airways. The communication system named “Enigma” becomes uncrackable as Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) devises a machine that can hopefully cause the breakthrough in this conundrum.
Hearing the stories of the unsung heroes throughout history always feels like a treat because of different circumstances requiring their involvement remain under wraps. In the case of Alan Turing and the rest of the mathematicians tasked with cracking Enigma, the confidentiality of their involvement only released very recently meant these individuals did not receive the adulation they deserved when alive, especially Turing, who received quite the opposite because of his sexuality.
These two facets of the story dictate what the narrative seeks to accomplish where Turing achieved such a massive feat, but then was essentially persecuted because he was gay. The way the narrative tries to navigate both of these facts comes with heavy imbalance as the vehicle used to talk about his sexuality falls incredibly short as compared to the journey of him and the other mathematicians cracking Enigma. Through the prism of a police detective investigating Turing, it feels incredibly dull, which left me just waiting for it to go back to the past showing Turing and his colleagues. This imbalance does no favors to the film’s quality, but, the other half does such a rousing job of excitement and creating moral dilemmas that it defines what makes this such an enjoyable feature film.
Seeing individuals so good at their craft excelling for a greater good makes that aspect of the narrative entertaining because these are the only individuals who could feasibly do this. The weight put on their shoulders to crack Enigma bears such a burden on them because they know the Germans are announcing their movements and attacks through code where these individuals could potentially stop them by figuring it out. The equivalent of being tasked with solving the most difficult sudoku puzzle and if you fail, others will be killed. Casualties of war certainly do not feasibly land on their shoulders, but as displayed in the film, they feel quite different as this serves as their contribution to the effort. This process shows geniuses butting heads and the intense issue of Turin not getting along with them much of the time in order to get where they need to.
The relationships established in the feature mean plenty but it’s where the film falls into key historical fabrications. As we all know, starting a film with “Based on a true story” versus “inspired” means plenty but when going with the former, a bit more adherence to the truth needs to be practiced. It’s what makes the decision of making Alan and Joan Clarke’s (Keira Knightley) relationship slightly fabricated for the instance of creating drama a bit off-putting. Especially when Turing is seen as some pioneer for bringing in Joan to an all-male group when in reality, Joan was already present prior to Turing’s involvement in cracking Enigma. It’s the small things that build up along with all of the other inaccuracies that simply feel like a distraction where the truth contains enough intrigue on its own.
By far, the greatest asset of this movie comes from the performances from Cumberbatch and Knightley with some strong supporting work done by Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, and several others. Cumberbatch, in particular, needs to handle the eccentricities of Turing, which included the man being neurodivergent and how it clashed with connecting with others differently than the others expect. Cumberbatch works through it all well and along with Knightley displays the emotional turmoil of the work they take on and the stakes involved.
World Wars forced many to step up in ways they could never imagine was possible and The Imitation Game serves as another opportunity to highlight those integral to ending Nazism. A tremendously entertaining but very flawed feature, which did not entirely know how to handle everything it wanted to tackle in a narrative sense. It still deserves plenty of respect, especially in the moments where these great minds came together to accomplish something greater than all of them.