Film Review: The Imitation Game


The Imitation Game is a biopic that tells the story of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a pioneering computer scientist and Cambridge Graduate tasked by the British Government with the development of a code-breaking machine which assists the allied Nations in gaining the upper-hand in World War 2. While the film focuses on the magnitude of Turing’s contributions, it also depicts the way in which he was victimised and ultimately jailed as a result of his sexuality.

Institutionalised discrimination due to the conservative values of the period becomes a key theme in the film with the addition of Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), a gifted code-breaker who marries Turing. For such a central character, Knightley’s presence on screen is underwhelming and given the story that is ultimately portrayed by Morten Tyldum (Director), her place in the film would seem superfluous, if not for historical accuracy. This impression is ultimately ironic, given that Clarke’s real life family’s response to the film was to suggest that Knightley’s performance was a little over the top.

The film spends little time explaining the significance of Turing’s contributions to the allied war effort, but rather, focuses on a portrayal of the protagonist’s ego. While Tyldum’s film evokes sympathy and respect for Turing, it establishes a protagonist who is far from being likeable or relatable. For this reason, the film may be difficult to digest for some viewers, however, be assured that this functions as part of the intelligent portrayal of Turing as an enigmatic character, whose characteristics correlate with the German encoding system, aptly named “Enigma”.

A key downfall for the film is the script, most notably the unintuitive dialogue. This is obvious in the depiction of Turing’s childhood, which relies on overly simplistic and awkwardly long scenes to show viewers that the protagonist simply has a predisposition for problem solving. This is further reflected by the repetition of the overly cumbersome and awkwardly inserted line: “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” The limitations of the script are also revealed by the use of highly clichéd and predictable scenes, as seen when Turing’s co-workers defend him from being fired; the script was was so awkward at times that audiences might imagine it was written by Turing himself.

Once Tyldum delves into the significance of Turing’s actions the film is given greater substance. While this occurs relatively late in the film, the sheer magnitude of Turing’s achievement is enough to amaze any viewer.

Overall, the film creates a neat narrative, which casts light on an interesting and more importantly, broadly unknown part of world history. The key strengths of this film are the insights it gives into Turing’s influence in assisting the allied countries in winning World War 2 and in the revolutionary development of computer science. Audiences may need to view this film more than once to gauge that Cumberbatch’s portrayal is not simply of an unlikeable prodigy, but rather an exploration of an enigmatic character who ultimately achieves an amazing feat through perseverance. While the film succeeds in establishing this theme, it is disappointingly limited by the shortcomings of the script, which leave the film feeling a little clumsy.