Well, that time of the year is now once again upon us. Yes, that’s everyone: it’s Oscar season! That mean over the course of both December and January (well, for us here in Australia), all the major film studios unleashed all their films that they all hope will go on to Oscar glory. While some people may be cynical about that, but for me personally I enjoy this time of the year is because, when compared other times during the year, we get a lot more quality films flooding the cinema. One film in particular that I’ve been looking forward to seeing was the Alan Turing biopic THE IMITATION GAME, which has been a lot of Oscar buzz recently (plus it has the reputation being the front-runner so far in the race). But the question is, does it live up to the hype? Well, read and I’ll tell you!
The film tells the true story of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a genius mathematician and cryptanalyst who in 1939 was hired by the British Government to join a top-secret team of code breakers to find way to help break Nazi Germany’s Enigma Code and end WW2. Believing that his team isn’t up to the task, Turing decides bring in more people to help. After a series of tests, he brings a young woman onto the team named Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley. As Turing and his team try to crack the Enigma Code, we go back-and-fourth between his time as a teenager in Boarding school in the 1920s and how he was prosecuted by the police because of his homosexuality in the 1950s.
I must admit that before I saw THE IMITATION GAME, that I actually surprisingly never heard of the life and work of Alan Turing until this biopic was put into production (I know, I know. I’m terrible). While do know the very basics about how the British cracked the Enigma Code, but I didn’t really know the full in-depth story behind this historic event and how Alan Turing was a huge part of it. So, I was definitely intrigued to see how this would film would play to someone like me wasn’t familiar with Alan Turing’s involvement in this events. But at the same time, was the film itself worthy of all the hype it has received? Now having seen THE IMITATION GAME, I can say that while I don’t it’s as great as everyone has made it out to be, but it’s still quite a well made and engaging film. The filmmakers did a really good job at taking what is essentially a film about people talking in rooms, and making it both interesting and thrilling to me as a viewer. All the scenes where the film goes into how “Turing” and his team were able to figure out and crack Enigma was really interesting, especially since I didn’t whole story about how it was done. Plus it also helps that it has compelling main character at the centre of it in form of “Alan Turing”. Benedict Cumberbatch gives a fantastic performance as “Turing”. He really dug deep into the character’s skin and brought some really fascinating layers to the role, which made “Turing” into both a interesting and complex character onscreen. It is really a great performance from Cumberbatch, I won’t be surprised if he gets an Oscar nod for it (he definitely deserves to be nominated).
The supporting cast all gave solid performances in their roles (Matthew Goode, Charles Dance and Mark Strong were all strong as always), but it was definitely Keira Knightley who shined the most. I’ve always considered Knightley very underrated as an actress, and once again she delivers in her role as “Joan Clarke”. I found her character to interesting and well rounded as well and her scenes with Cumberbatch were terrific. Also the script by Graham Moore (which was based on the book ALAN TURING: THE ENIGMA by Andrew Hodges) is very written and I like how he structured the story by going back-and-fourth between three different time periods in Alan Turing’s life. I must admit that it was a bit jarring at first but once you get use to it, it ended up being a really effective way of adding more layers and backstory to “Turing” (the young actor who plays the teenaged “Turing” in the 1920s scenes, Alex Lawther, did a really job with his performance). Another thing that surprised me most about Moore’s script, was the humour in it. I expected the film to be a a real serious drama, which it still is, but I was genuinely surprised how funny it was at times. Also some of the turns that Moore took with both the plot and characters, I found to be both surprising and effective. Plus Alexander Desplat’s score was excellent, the production/costume design was nicely done and the editing by William Goldenberg was terrific.
Even though there are a lot of things that I liked about THE IMITATION GAME, unfortunately there were aspects about the film that I felt stopped it from be a great film. While I thought that director Morten Tyldum’s did a solid job with his direction, but I felt that his approach to the material was too conservative and un-cinematic that it actually made the film feel more like TV film to me. There were elements of the story that I wish that the film went further with, particularly the 1950s set scenes where Turing was arrested for ‘gross indecency’ because of his homosexuality. I found this section of Turing’s life really fascinating and tragic, but I didn’t feel that the filmmakers explored it enough for my liking (especially since that was a part of British history that I didn’t really know about, in how they treated gay people back then). Also I felt that some of the supporting cast were be underused. One in particular was Charles Dance whose character was featured prominently in the first half but sadly an hour into film, he disappears entirely from the rest of the film. Plus the CGI they used for the London bombing scenes looks really dodgy.
Overall while I don’t think that THE IMITATION GAME is the Oscar front-runner that everyone has made it out to be, but it’s still a solid and compelling film that I quite enjoyed nonetheless (Cumberbatch and Knightley definitely deserve nods for their work though). It’s not perfect, but I would recommend everyone to check out. It’s definitely that is worth a look for sure.
– Bede Jermyn