By: Dan Tomasik
The story of mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), who in WWII was tasked with cracking the most difficult puzzle in history, the German “Enigma” code.
Wonderful storytelling from the first moments until the haunting end. For the most part the movie is showcasing how fun it is to be the smartest man in the room. It permits the freedom to fly in the face of established procedure. Like requesting a position on the top secret team tasked with breaking the Nazi’s undefeated Enigma code when one does not speak a word of German. It celebrates intellect above all else, which can be extremely risky if not properly handled. Make no mistake, Turing was often insufferable. But he was willing to overlook everything else in the pursuit of worthy peers. Race, gender, age; none of it mattered if you could meet his intellectual standards. He understood the feeling of being excluded for one’s inherent attributes all too well, which allows us (the audience) to find the humanity within and sympathize for him.
The Imitation Game is part drama, part thriller, part historical, part biographical, and part tragedy. It features several parallels to A Beautiful Mind. Like John Nash, Alan Turing was a mathematical genius with a particular gift for cryptography (decoding hidden messages). Also like Nash, Turing had a very…. “abrasive” personality. He had a tendency to rub people the wrong way with his intellect, antisocial demeanor, and often condescending treatment of others. It wasn’t very easy to like him. Like Nash, he found vindication through his brilliant work, which allowed others to overlook the less cuddly aspects of his personality. Like Nash, he would undergo harsh and mandated psychological treatment that left him a shell of his former self. And like Nash, his work would have a tremendous impact on modern life. However, unlike Nash’s work which is mostly recognized by mathematicians, Turing’s work exists today in a far more commonplace manner. These days we call them “computers”.
Taking place during Turing’s years as a lonely university student, his struggles to crack Enigma, and the post-war years he spent in painful isolation and treatment for his homosexuality; it’s almost like three movies masterfully woven together. A biography of a great innovator, a historical adaptation of a turning point in WWII, and a brief glimpse into the life of a shy man living in torment incomprehensible to most. The extreme high accompanying the breaking of the code is suddenly offset by a debilitating truth. The Imitation Game forces you to see World War II from a new, even more horrifying point of view. In a way, cracking Enigma made Turing and his associates the most blood-soaked company of either side. Never have the words “mission accomplished” been so devastating.
Most of the emotional weight is left for Turing to endure, alone. How fortunate to have a leading man so adept at displaying deep emotional acting as Benedict Cumberbatch. In so few minutes we are given a glimpse into such suffering within one human being, but Cumberbatch knows how to make use of every second within those few minutes. He truly is one of the most phenomenal actors of his generation. Much like Meryl Streep, he has a long future of accolades to reflect his extraordinary performances ahead of him. In his hands, any role can be an Oscar contender.