Review by Amber
It’s 1939 and Britain is not winning the war. The German forces are on the attack and surprising the Allies at every turn. Military intelligence can’t gather enough information to thwart the Nazis because all of the German messages are encrypted, and the code is unbreakable…or so it seems.
The Imitation Game is a captivating biopic of genius Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician and cryptanalyst who helped the Allies win World War II by breaking an impossible code. This code is generated by a machine—called Enigma—and the key for the encryption changes daily. Traditional code-breaking methods have proved the puzzle to be unsolvable. Enter Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), who is enlisted by the British military to work with a team of Britain’s best cryptanalysts. While his cohorts set about the problem using traditional methods, Turing determines that it will take another machine to beat Enigma—a wildly unconventional and even radical notion, met with opposition from Turing’s colleagues as well as his commanding officers. The only person on his side is Joan Clarke (played by Keira Knightley), another brilliant mathematician and problem-solver on the team.
Turing, however, is no stranger to being an outsider; he has always been “different”—the sort of different that causes school children to pick on other kids, and adults to shun and discriminate against their colleagues. More than the story of how the Allies won the war, or about breaking an unbreakable code, The Imitation Game is about the value of being unique, the importance of being an individual, and the beauty of being different. The team of code-breakers assembled at Blechley—the top-secret location where they are working night and day—is a group of outsiders (I couldn’t help but think that the code name for Blechley should be “the island of misfit toys”), but it takes unique minds to solve unique problems. If Turing had been “normal,” he never would have been able to break Enigma. The mantra that is repeated throughout the film is: “Sometimes it’s the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
God created us to be different, and we are meant to use our differences to help one another, to further His kingdom, and to make the world a better place. I Peter 4:10: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” If we all had the same traits, skills, and talents, the world would not only be boring, but stagnant. It is our differences that create progress. In I Corinthians 7:7, Paul writes that “each man has his own gift from God.” We should embrace our unique gifts and celebrate them in ourselves and in one another. As King David wrote, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
Everything in The Imitation Game is incredibly well done. The story is compelling and captivating, and the cinematography is beautiful and extremely clever. The performances, however, are what make the film one of the best of this year. Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Turing is sensitive, powerful, and oddly charming. Knightley brilliantly balances Joan Clarke’s confidence in her own abilities with the uncertainty that comes with being a woman in a man’s world. Other top-notch performances are delivered by Mark Strong (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Sherlock Holmes), who plays MI-6 head Stewart Menzies; Allan Leech (Downton Abbey) and Matthew Goode (Matchpoint), who both portray members of Turing’s team; and Charles Dance, who plays Commander Denniston (Turing’s commanding officer). And I don’t know where they found the kid who plays Alan Turing as a schoolboy (Alex Lawther), but he is amazing.
My rating is 4.5 out of 5. My only criticism is that the subplot dealing with homosexuality got a little heavy-handed at the end of the film—to the point where it seemed to be vying with the primary plot line. For that I had to take of a half a point. Again, this didn’t happen until the last 10 or 15 minutes of the movie. Regardless, I highly recommend this film. (Oh, and for fans of The Big Bang Theory, you basically get to see Benedict Cumberbatch play Sheldon Cooper.)