At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Imitation Game “2014”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Imitation Game “2014”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Historical Drama/ Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, James Northcote, Tom Goodman-Hill, Steven Waddington, Ilan Goodman, Jack Tarlton/ Runtime: 114 minutes

I think it is safe to say that when a person starts mentally conjuring up imagines of just what active conflict is all about I think the first things we think of explosives, guns, and soldiers who’re bloodied and bruised up quite significantly. From there we also begin seeing things like c.o.’s figuring out their battle strategy for the next day’s fight, and men fighting side by side with one another. Indeed maybe for some they’ll also recall images of people engaged in a conflict of intel and ideas as well as the, unseen by the soldiers, creators of propaganda meant to get back home to support the conflict with open arms as much as drive a sense of fear and trepidation into the heart and soul of the enemy in equal measure. Yet it is worth pointing out that the last category I mentioned is also one which very often is one which goes past simple flyers or radio bulletins, and can often hit right in the heart of a conflict where a skirmish isn’t won or lost or lives butchered or saved to fight another day, but where, under a veil of secrecy and far from the front lines, the tide of war is slowly but surely turned thanks to both man’s creativity and the creation and execution of ideas that can make just as much if not bigger of a difference than any general’s battle plan, any bullet fired, or any bomb dropped in helping a side come out the victor. To that end, the film I am reviewing today from 2014 and known as The Imitation Game is a movie which presents us with the incredible true story of a man’s devotion to breaking the German code during World War 2 and, even though he never saw the front line of combat, managed to see his work serve as a crucial aid to the Allied forces. At the same time however, this film is also one which showcases this same guy and his conflict with not only who he is as a person, but how others view him and the conflict being waged against him as a person not only because of his way of doing things, but also because of his closeted homosexuality. Thus what we get is a riveting tale about the power of genius, the courage of the heart, and the will of the spirit to accomplish greatness even when you as a person are tragically seen by the world as anything but simply because you wish to be different than society desires you to be.

The plot is as follows: The Imitation Game tells the story of a young man by the name of Alan Turing. Turing we soon learn is a 27-year-old shy and oddball prodigy who finds himself assigned to work at Bletchley Radio Manufacturing where we soon learn that his task is to subtly crack the mysterious and notorious German Enigma coding machine since even though the Allied Forces have managed to get their hands on one, it is proving to be all but impossible to figure out to the point that it is believed that close to 160 million (yes you read that right I did say million) permutations in order to crack a code that literally is changed every single day. Suffice it to say that our intrepid hero feels he is up to snuff even if he also doesn’t believe in working with a group preferring instead to work on his own on a device that he feels has better odds in breaking the code better than any person could. Yet even though Turing is eventually given the funds to build such a device, he’s also placed in charge and with no hesitation cans a pair of his fellow teammates thus earning further ostracism. Thus to remedy the situation, Turing places an ad in the paper and acquires a woman by the name of Joan Clarke who, much like Turing himself is both quite brilliant and driven yet ostracized not due to any social issues, but instead because she is female. Thus as the team works desperately to crack this true puzzler, Turing finds himself not only pushed into working alongside the group, but also facing other challenges, some a bit closer to home than others, as the team strives to help the Allied Forces achieve success in the European Theater of Operations…

Now this film to its credit does manage to do quite a wonderful job at giving us in the audience the 101 on not only why breaking the German code is vital, but also how it could be accomplished, and the various attempts, setbacks, and ultimate triumph of the whole endeavor. Yet with that in mind, it should be noted that this is a significantly bigger film than just a simple look at how a group of people went from codes which were unbreakable to not only being able to crack them, but also deal with the fallout of both using the information as well as being able to balance both acknowledgement of their triumph and then sending out in order to aid the war effort. However it is during these moments, to which the majority of the film is devoted, that the movie is able to showcase a terrific sense of pace and also manage to immerse you in the cloak and dagger, top secret to the max land of breaking codes. Yet when looking beyond that is where we see this movie turn into something truly special due to this film proving to be more than just being a showcase for what combat looks like for those who fight in it behind the scenes. Indeed I say that because this film is also a riveting portrait of one of the most complex individuals ever showcased on the silver screen. This is because the character of Alan Turing is not only quite the oddball who is very much OCD to the max in regards to what he does every day, and a bit of a pariah in social circles, but he is also very witty, extremely at ease in engaging the back and forth game, able to locate flaws within a person just by casually talking to them, and being nowhere close to having anything resembling a filter. Yet all of this manages to provide quite the intriguing contrast for his passion for puzzles and riddles and his gift for comprehending them, figuring them out, and eventually creating a device tasked with conquering them with a speed and efficiency that would rival that of Sherlock Holmes. However, for all the wonder this man is able to accomplish, he is still barely able to have a typical conversation with his co-workers and is even, quite vehemently, against the idea of putting himself on a pedestal and is instead more comfortable being on the level of his peers and then building himself up to get beyond them. Yes he does, in all fairness, slowly and cautiously get used to working alongside other people, but the intriguing part for us moviegoers is how doing so forces him to deal with just who he is, what he accomplishes, what he could potentially accomplish, and just how he has managed to accomplish what he has through a very unique prism.

To that end, it should be noted that whilst The Imitation Game doesn’t particularly permit the aspect of Turing that is his closeted homosexuality to completely overwhelm the rest of ingredients at play in this movie, it does manage to define a significant amount especially later in the movie where it actually manages to place itself front and center. Yes, I guess it should be noted that among the people in a circle that he would rather have minimized or done away with, Turing is quite the progressive hence why we see that he is able to see past the fact that Joan is a female following her proving that she more than deservedly has a right to be in the room with “the boys”. To that end, the movie is quite intriguing in how overtly it depicts the character of Joan as first she is quite apprehensively, though not by our main character, admitted into the program due to nothing but her gender, and then her parents frown on the fact that she is working alongside men when she herself is single and of marrying age thus, according to the social norms of the time, a better fit for a job that is more of one a “typical female” should perform. Thus the film then does do wonderful work at working with concepts that deal with both accepting others and looking at a person beyond just what they showcase on the surface. Yet even this is an integral ingredient to really defining the narrative as a whole, it is still played in a subtle yet efficient manner that permits them to gently support the other key ingredients and not completely override them.

What truly enables this film to soar though has to without a doubt be Benedict Cumberbatch for bringing to life one of the most intriguing yet also complex people to appear on the silver screen in a role most deserving of the Oscar nod that it ultimately received. Indeed Turing as portrayed by Cumberbatch is quite the…..unique person who is close to being on the level of socially awkward as Adrian Monk, but without all the phobias. Yet more than that, this is a unique kind of role for an actor to take because it requires the performer to construct a person who not only is more complex on the inside, but who on the outside is easily defined by the inside and who must nevertheless be able to possess a degree of confidence in the world of being social. A world he, incidentally, would rather not enter, but does due to the riddle the code presents instead of the riddle it presents to his withdrawn personality. Yet even though Turing does seem to little by little leave his shell behind and come to realize that he does need to work with others and also come to appreciate to a degree what others offer and not just in terms of their contributions to the project, there is a moment quite away into the movie where we see this growth come to a sudden stop when Turing has to admit he tweaked with a situation not because he cared about another person, but for the success of the project overall. Indeed it is in this gut punch moment of genuine heartbreak that manages to be the best definition possible for this character through and through, and it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it turns out to be if any actor other than Cumberbatch had been bringing him to life before or after that moment in the film.

All in all The Imitation Game is a film which chooses to deal with both a complicated issue and quite complex individuals in equal measure, but manages to emerge as a truly remarkable movie on quite a few distinct levels including the basic narrative dealing with British codebreakers during the Second World War, but also, on a significantly more satisfying note, is a riveting look at one of the most intriguing real-life individuals ever to be put to celluloid. Indeed Benedict Cumberbatch’s turn as Turing here is phenomenally immersive not only in that nails the superficial ingredients that are required for this particular character, but also in how he manages to construct his portrayal of the man from within. Yes, he is without a doubt aided by a well-written script, a riveting story, and a terrific supporting cast of players, but at the end of the day this is easily one of the finest moments of a quite extraordinary thespian’s truly remarkable career and what a moment for us as movie lovers as well! On a scale of 1-5 I give The Imitation Game a solid 4 out of 5.