Follow Us on Twitter

The Imitation Game - DVD Review

The Imitation Game

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

MORTEN Tyldum shot to prominence by directing the headrush thriller that was Headhunters but continues to impress with his latest, The Imitation Game.

An altogether different affair, his latest film is based on the true story of little known British World War II hero Alan Turing, a socially awkward mathematician and cryptanalyst who belatedly became credited with cracking the hitherto unbreakable codes of Germany’s Enigma machine.

But that’s just half the story. Turing was also a gay man at a time when homosexuality was illegal. And after the war, he was arrested on charges of ‘gross indecency’, an accusation that led to his conviction for the criminal offence.

Tyldum’s film combines both elements of Turing’s story but eschews the sometimes rigid structure of more conventional biopics by flitting back and forth between the definining periods in Turing’s life.

Hence, we simultaneously follow Turing as he leads a motley group of scholars, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers in breaking the codes, as well as his coming-of-age at university and his subsequent investigation and arrest for homosexuality.

The ensuing film, featuring an adapted screenplay by Graham Moore, makes for riveting viewing, even though it also carries the feeling of an ‘awards ready’ movie. But then Turing’s life was excluded from recognition for so long that it only seems fair that his story is now thrust into the awards spotlight now.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Turing and doesn’t shy away from portraying his weaknesses as well as his strengths. Hence, he becomes a fascinating enigma in himself… someone worthy of decoding to truly understand and appreciate. It has to rate as something of a tour-de-force.

But he’s surrounded by an impressive supporting cast, including Keira Knightley as a fellow team member and disappointed love interest who is able to give as good as she gets on an intellectual basis; Charles Dance as the commander in chief with whom Turing has a love-hate relationship with; Mark Strong, as a sympathetic MI6 officer who instantly recognises Turing’s genius; Rory Kinnear as a sympathetic detective investigating Turing’s later indiscretions, and Allen Leech and Matthew Goode as two more of Turing’s colleagues.

Tyldum, too, manages to imbue the film with a dramatic tension that remains taut in spite of the fact most people will know the outcome, while also exploring some of the moral and ethical complexities of fighting a war. There’s a notable scene, late on, where Turing and his team’s victory comes at a massive cost… and the ramifications are nicely debated. Likewise, a later exchange between Turing and Strong’s MI6 boss.

And then there’s the sexual element that is also expertly conveyed, with Turing forced to hide his secret like a spy covering up his duplicity.

There’s a lot going on but it’s masterfully handled so as to engage viewers on an intellectual level befitting its subject, while also providing them with the excitement and drama requisite from a World War II thriller.

The Imitation Game is therefore a film to savour. And one that finds triumph in a chapter of British history that is, by turns, hugely heroic (in Turing’s triumph) and yet ultimately sad and disgraceful (on the part of the British establishment).

Certificate: 15
Running time: 114mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: March 9, 2015