“It’s the person one imagines can hardly do anything, that end up doing something no one has yet imagined.” This is the leitmotif of ‘The Imitation Game’, a very fine film indeed which is receiving all kinds of award nominations during this season.
We seem to love our stories about socially awkward, eccentric, geniuses. Interestingly, the two most memorable roles that Benedict Cumberbatch has thus far played both involve such persons— the fictional character Sherlock Holmes and the very real Alan Turing who basically invented one form of the modern computer, called initially ‘the Turing Machine’. The plot of the movie is quite simple— devise a machine that will decrypt the Nazi codes on the same day the messages are sent out. While the story line is easy, the actual task was incredibly difficult, and it did indeed require a genius to come up with a brand new machine that could crack ‘Enigma’ the encoding devise of the Germans.
Let’s first say that this is a compelling historical drama, full of all sorts of interesting characters all operating under the stress of southern England being bombed again and again. The tension to find a solution to Hitler’s coded messages about bombings and sinkings and the like is palpable. The hour and 54 minutes fairly whizzes by there is so much of importance that happens in this film. We have a war, we have a ‘beat the clock’ time table, we have a very strange romance, we have the life story of Alan Turing, we have a team of nerds and puzzle solvers learning how to work with the very difficult Mr. Turing. We have drama, melodrama, a bit of humor, a bit of romance, and a bit of tragedy all woven into the story line.
Benedict Cumberbatch (who once quipped ‘with a name like that, I’d better be good’) is simply brilliant in this film, and fully deserves the best actor nomination for it, but he will have a real run for his money from Mr. Redmayne aka Prof. Hawking. Keira Knightley as the only woman code cracker does a good job as well, but her performance is not up to say Anne Hathaway’s in Les Mis. And of course, best of all, this is true story of ‘how we actually won the war’, and it’s not by the means you might have thought– by brains rather than brawn or bombs, by clear thinking rather than random acts of bravery. Oh what a subtle web we weave, His wonders to perform.
If you are wondering if this is a good film to take your older children to, I would say yes. It does deal with the issue of the mistreating of homosexuals during and just after WWII, but it doesn’t allow that plot line to take over the entire film. It is in the end not a crusading film, but rather an hommage film. And as such we can only say hats off to Mr. Turing. It is estimated that because of his invention of his machine, 14 million lives were saved, and WWII was shortened by 2 years! We owe the man and his single-minded pursuit of cracking the Nazi code, a lot. It is only in the last ten years that this whole story has come to light. It waited for 50 years to be declassified. This is clearly one of the best pictures of the year. We shall see how it does come Oscar time.