I had a discount movie voucher to spend before the end of February, so I decided to see The Imitation Game, which had stuck around the local cinemas for what seems like ages now. Despite the good reviews, I’ve resisted seeing it for a number of reasons; one, it didn’t look particularly cinematic. Two, biopics these days have become something like a grown-up, Oscar-baiting version of comic book movies – there are zillions of them and most of them are terribly formulaic and/or mediocre. And three, as much as I like the guy, did I really want to see Benedict Cumberbatch play yet another socially clueless genius?
Well, the movie does fall into some biopic potholes, but at least it tells its story way better than something like The Iron Lady which was rushed, bitty and had nothing going for it except the central performance. And I was dead wrong about Cumberbatch (god I just love typing his name!) – he’s not only fantastic at portraying aloof geniuses but he’s also great at making them distinct. His Alan Turing is highly intelligent and socially abrasive/inept just like Sherlock, but he feels like a completely different person in mannerisms, body language, speech etc. From what I gathered Turing’s anti-social tendencies were probably exaggerated for the dramatic effect, but still it was a memorable and very affecting performance, and it really helped to elevate what’s basically a solid movie into something more special.
Keira Knightley was very good as Joan Clarke, a sole female member of Turing’s team who also becomes his friend and, for a while, fiancee. She values the mind and the connection she has with Turing so much that she’s still willing to enter the marriage when Turing finally tells her that he’s a homosexual. I’ve seen criticisms that the movie plays coy with Turing’s sexuality and they do have a point; other than his boyhood crush on a fellow student we’re mostly told about it. I don’t think it’s too cynical to suggest that it was done in order to make the film agreeable to those in the audience who are quite prepared to sympathise with a man persecuted and hounded for his sexuality, but aren’t comfortable with it actually portrayed onscreen.
Like pretty much any British-made movie The Imitation Game had some familiar faces from popular TV series; a regular from Downton Abbey popped up and I really enjoyed seeing Charles Dance of Game of Thrones do his best Tywin Lannister death stare. Oh and I also spotted a guy who was the Duke of Buckingham in the first season of The Tudors. My favourite of the supporting cast though was Mark Strong as the jaded MI6 agent who is both rather sympathetic to Turing and has no problem manipulating him the way he sees necessary. I really enjoyed the interactions between Turing and his team and the moments of workplace comedy.
I suspect that the real-life story of cracking Enigma has been simplified like hell, but oh well just as well since I suspect that the technical side of it would probably sail right over my head. Also, I thought that the last scene between Turing and Joan was very Hollywood, but you almost can’t blame the screenwriter for wanting the poor broken guy to be told by somebody just how important and amazing his work had been. I thought it was the good Hollywood bullshit kinda in the same vein as Oscar Schindler breaking down in front of his workers at the end of Spielberg’s film – it’s something you just want to have happened.