The Imitation Game
This WWII drama traverses similar territory to Robert Harris’ Enigma as one of those true story dramas which, despite our knowing the outcome, still manages to be engaging. Thankfully, 2001’s Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet are today’s Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, and The Imitation Game’s especial strength is in its performances, in particular Cumberbatch’s central role as Alan Turing, the brilliant cryptanalyst who was instrumental in cracking the German codes.
“Mother says I can be off-putting sometimes, on account of being one of the best mathematicians in the world,” Turing opines to a potential employer, oblivious to the fact that being “really quite excellent at crossword puzzles” won’t endear him to others. Yet the very fine Cumberbatch (who does understated like few other actors) delivers Turing from superciliousness by restraining the potential for camp (Turing’s closeted homosexuality becomes a key aspect of his tribulations) and enabling him to show heart.
Knightley does frightfully-frightfully rather well, holding her own in an immensely likeable cast which includes Matthew Goode (Stoker) and a terrific Mark Strong. Even Charles Dance proves he’s still got it.
This is an old-school spy movie (albeit without the on-the-frontline espionage thrills), chaste and proper and decades away from Bourne and Bond. Despite one rather limp Spartacus moment, the narrative moves at pace, energy kept high by the endearingly insensitive Turing who at least knows that he doesn’t know jokes.
The Imitation Game doesn’t quite do justice to its hero’s significant backstory, choosing instead to focus on his enormous contribution to the war. But it should be enormously appealing to crossword puzzlers and code-breakers, and certainly delivers a rather jolly little romp.