When “The Imitation Game” was released in theaters Feb. 17, critics jumped on the hype train and started to praise the film even before it premiered. The historical thriller genre only added to the rumor—recent historical thrillers have been highly successful, citing “Argo” among many. Yet, “The Imitation Game” surpassed even these expectations and rose to the forefront of filmdom. What inherent qualities does it have that give it such prominence? Why has Alan Turing been romanticized in the media only recently? Some of these questions are better answered by reading the novel that inspired the film: “Alan Turing: The Enigma,” which was reviewed by fellow columnist Jungho Daniel Choi. However, the film is truly a masterpiece that reaches new heights independently of its source material.
“The Imitation Game” encompasses the life and work of Turing, genius mathematician and the inventor of an electromechanical machine that cracked the Enigma code used by the Nazis. It examines his personal life: the conflict between his homosexuality and the contemporary austere laws punishing such proclivities with chemical castration. It also shows the immense trust the British government put into him by giving him free reign to plan and devise a plan to effectively use the code breaker. In short, the film takes every measure to ensure that the audience can grasp the massive influence of Turing on the war effort during World War II.
Yet the film does not slack when it comes to dramatic measure. Some scenes are highly reminiscent of the World War II period, featuring machinery and settings that are very British in taste. No anachronisms exist in the film: it is a carefully crafted masterpiece that meticulously takes into account history. Turing’s private residence following the war? Beautifully adorned and accurately portrayed. Bletchley Park? Reconstructed brick by brick on the film screen. The German Luftwaffe? Realistically portrayed and thrilling. Indeed, “The Imitation Game” is a heart-racing combination of slow, dramatic scenes and action-packed thrillers.
When it comes to the acting, nothing short of extreme commendation can be made of the film. Director Morten Tyldum must have planned the casting of the film for some time before the production, because his choices seem to be on point and undisputable. Benedict Cumberbatch manages to pull off the “irascible genius” routine for Turing perfectly, and his partner Keira Knightley plays Joan Clarke, Turing’s wife, almost as well. Not much data exists on the relationship between the two, but it seems the pair researched their roles extensively nonetheless. Though the rest of the cast is rather one-dimensional, it is to be expected: it is a film concerning Alan Turing himself, after all.
Rather than focus on the overt drama in the film, or its deviations from the source material, it is necessary to view this film in the light in which it was released. “The Imitation Game” is not just a thriller or a historical film. It is a documentary that exposes the public to the work of Turing, one of the greatest war heroes of the last century. It is an attempt to portray some of the repressed and hidden sides of history that were clouded by the British government following the war, such as its persecution of homosexuals and the personal struggle of Turing. There is nothing left to the imagination with this film, as nothing is left out. For a more detailed explanation of the man behind the film, and his work, peruse Daniel’s review.