As Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces spread throughout 1940s Europe, a group of the best cryptographer’s in Britain fought the war from inside a secret operations shed outside London. Alan Turing and his team developed a machine to think for them. Years later, the British government forced Turing out of the closet and sentenced him to chemical castration. He would commit suicide one year into his “treatment.”
This is the basis for director Morten Tyldum’s brilliant biopic of the father of computer science, “The Imitation Game.”
The film opens on Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) sitting in an interrogation room years after the World War II. Once the viewer gets over the shock that the “Sherlock” star is not solving crimes, Cumberbatch’s performance is spot-on. He perfectly embodies the socially awkward scientist who is wholly set on his machine. He is reminiscent of that guy that you never want to sit next to in math class because when you ask for help, he will probably call you an imbecile.
Turing manages to put himself at the helm of the project with the British government to decipher the Nazis’ communication code. He brings in Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) to help. Clark is one of those stereotypical turn-of-the-century girls who wants to do something more than be a housewife, but her parents are stuck in societal norms. She agrees to be a secretary and help at an arm’s length. Despite his secret sexual orientation, Turing offers to marry her to secure her a spot on the team. There was nothing wrong with Knightley’s performance here—it was good, just nothing that was jaw-droppingly amazing.
The story itself is told in flashbacks. It does take a little while to figure out why Turing is sitting in an interrogation room. It gets a little frustrating, since the reveal of why Turing is there—that he was caught being “indecent” with a man—does not happen until about half way into the film. It almost leads the viewer to thinking that Turing let out a government secret. But that is the only remotely weird part of the film.
The story also flashes further back to tell the story of Turing’s first love, a friend with whom he went to school. Those flashbacks were a bit less jarring.
Spoiler alert: one of the most powerful scenes in the film is a moment between Cumberbatch and Knightley after Cumberbatch’s character has already started his chemical castration “therapy” to rid himself of his homosexuality. The relationship is so honest and sincere that it is pretty hard to get your heart out from your stomach.
“The Imitation Game” is a limited release, so your best bet for finding it would be in New York City. If you can see it, you should. And if you can see it but choose not to, then you deserve to be that kid who sat next Turing in math class and asked for help… not that that happened, but you get the point.