The Imitation Game probably gets a solid “B+” for sheer entertainment value but a “D+” for accuracy, something that is an unforced error as the real life story of Turing, as well as co-inventor Gordon Welchman, is interesting enough without having to introduce non-existent plot points and changing around characters to fit the dramatic story the filmmakers wanted to tell. Even so, the acting still is top notched especially by Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.
The Imitation Game
Anchor Bay | PG13 – 114 min. – $34.99 | March 31, 2015
THE MOVIE – 3.5/5
Note: This review contains major spoilers concerning the plot.
There are five words that terrify me that appear before seeing a movie: “Based on a True Story.” There are times I can ignore those words and go with the flow (any number of horror films loosely use “true events” for instance) yet when it comes to films that purport to be biographical, I tend to be more critical. Such is the case with The Imitation Game, which is well made and finely acted but the liberties taken by the filmmakers are nearly inexcusable.
Our (semi-non fictional) story opens in 1951 Manchester where police, including Detective Robert Nock (RORY KINNEAR), has been dispatched to the apartment of the eccentric Alan Turing (BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH) on the call of a burglary. Despite Turing turning them away, Nock is suspicious and it only grows when he discovers Turing had a sealed and classified military record and he begins to suspect that Turing might have been a Soviet spy during World War II.
This is the catalyst to the film where viewers are taken back through time from Turing’s childhood years (played by ALEX LAWTHER) at an all-boy private school where he was picked on and only had one true friend, Christopher (JACK BANNON), to the ‘20s and ‘40s as WW2 rages on and Hitler has made advances across Europe and are utilizing a machine called the Enigma, which outputs an unbreakable code. The British military has been trying to break it and turn the tides of war with limited success. The smug and off-putting Turing offers his credentials to Commander Denniston (CHARLES DANCE) a tense fellow himself who, after a terse conversation, brings Turing into the fold within MI6 for a top secret mission at Bletchley Park.
Turing is in a team of the nation’s top mathematicians and cryptologists: Hugh Alexander (MATTHEW GOODE), John Cairncross (ALLEN LEECH), Peter Hilton (MATTHEW BEARD) and Jack Good (JAMES NORTHCOTE). This team is assigned to break the code but the way it works, the key is changed every day thus every day they would need to start from scratch trying to break through millions of combinations to German attach coordinates. However, Turing isn’t much of a team player and begins designing a machine that would calculate the combinations faster than the human brain, but his lack of active participation, as the war languished on and thousands died, rubs the others the wrong way.
But being persistent, Turing ignores the others, and even Denniston who has been looking for a way to boot him, including suspecting Turing of being a Soviet spy due to an intercepted decoded message, but Turing uses his connection with MI6 spook Stewart Menzies (MARK STRONG) to bring a message to Churchill after which Turing is put in charge of the project and lets go a few others and utilizes a newspaper crossword puzzle to recruit others to help in his endeavor. One such person who solves the puzzle in the requisite 10-minute timeframe is Joan Clarke (KEIRA KNIGHTLEY) who is up to task and can match wits with Turing’s brilliance and the pair form an instant friendship, someone Turing can turn to for help.
Through trial and error, and some luck, Turing and his team work through to get his machine in working order, though still has trouble getting it to produce clear results and even when they get it to work, they face additional challenges of the moral kind.
In all of this, we go back and forth in team from his childhood and Turing’s crush to the present day where he was under arrest following the burglary investigation for Turing being a homosexual. Through his interview with Nock, he reveals the story of his top secret project at Bletchley Park.
Taking the film’s inaccuracies aside, and if you want to learn more, this site breaks it down cleanly enough, The Imitation Game is all around well made. The acting by Benedict Cumberbatch is worthy of his Oscar nomination although I will say, this Turing seems akin to his version of Sherlock: genius but off-putting, dismissive and has a hard time making or keeping friends. Still, he does help mask any of the problems with the story. Keira Knightley for her part plays well opposite Cumberbatch and continues to provide steady and effective performances. The remainder of the cast fills the roles well enough from Matthew Goode playing a character who turns from obstacle against Turing to a quasi-friendly relationship; and Mark Strong plays up the cameo-like role giving his Menzies role.
The Imitation Game was helmed by Morten Tyldum who previous directed several films from his homeland of Norway and this marks his first English-language flick from what I could tell and stylistically, with the help of production designer Maria Djurkovic (who received a nomination), he does a good job bringing the different eras to life and presenting a story, flawed as it may be compared to real life, that’s compelling, though I do wish when it comes to the development of the machine, which was actually called the Bombe, additional credit was given to Gordon Welchman who is completely absent… I realize this is a biopic on Turing but to neglect such an important person is indefensible.
But as I said, take away those elements, this is still certainly an entertaining flick and perhaps worth a watch keeping in mind the inaccuracies and doing some research to get the full picture to the importance that was the Enigma code-breaking machine.
Now, there is a side story or aspect to The Imitation Game and that is the British laws imposed on homosexuals during the era, which Turing was convicted of, and much like the real-life story of the enigma machine, it might’ve been better for them to make a movie centered on the law and barbaric hormonal “therapies” placed on the people and instead it feels more shoehorned in and not nearly as effective or powerful, or at least as powerful as the filmmakers wanted it to be.
In the end, it’s not a terrible movie in the least and has some redeeming value yet the historical aspects are troubling so don’t go in expecting a history lesson…
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
This release comes with a matted slip cover. Inside is a redemption code for the UltraViolet HD Digital Copy.
Audio Commentary – Director Mortem Tyldum and Screenwriter Graham Moore offer their thoughts on the film and the person that was Alan Turing. It’s not the most lively commentary but informative enough.
The Making of The Imitation Game (22:44; HD) is a basic behind-the-scenes featurette sprinkled with press junket interviews with the cast and crew chatting about the plot and Turing. It’s nothing profound yet gives some insight from the filmmakers and the cast.
Deleted Scenes (3:50; HD) – Two scenes are included that don’t really bring anything new to the plot.
Q&A Highlights (29:11; HD) is a collection of sound-bites from the Telluride Film Festival following a screening.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
The Imitation Game initiates the conversation onto Blu-ray presented with a 2.39 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture offers excellent and sharp detail levels throughout as colors tend to be geared toward natural tones versus anything particularly bright or brilliant; even so, they are well balanced. There weren’t any apparent aliasing, pixilation or artifacting making for a nice looking HD transfer.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The disc includes a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which is suitable and serviceable for a film that is 99% dialogue with the remaining 1% for some of the more suspense-filled scenes. As with the picture, this lossless audio track is well done. Dialogue is crisp and clear, there weren’t any discernible hissing and the score by Alexandre Desplant, as well as some ambient audio, makes use of the front and rear channels.
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Overall, The Imitation Game probably gets a solid “B+” for sheer entertainment value but a “D+” for accuracy, something that is an unforced error as the real life story of Turing, as well as co-inventor Gordon Welchman, is interesting enough without having to introduce non-existent plot points and changing around characters to fit the dramatic story the filmmakers wanted to tell. Even so, the acting still is top notched especially by Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. The Blu-ray released by Anchor Bay offers solid video and audio transfers and a limited but still well made set of bonus material.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.