The Test of Turing
Part character study, and part exploration of the events surrounding the cracking of the Enigma Code, The Imitation Game largely gets the balance right despite sometimes taking an audience-friendly approach to the unquestionably tragic subject-matter.Slick and polished, and prepped for our Stateside cousins, on the one hand it’s quite a surprise that this poignant drama earned little more than a few nominations when it came to the Oscars and, on the other hand, perhaps apt when you consider the lengths taken to make this a more palatable affair. Initially focussed far more on the heavily fictionalised Enigma thrills, the true dark core of the matter relates to Alan Turing himself, as he battles demons from inside and outside, and is ultimately rewarded for his service to the country by being chemically castrated for his outlawed homosexuality.Benedict Cumberbatch turns in an admittedly impressive performance as Turing, standing out amidst the familiar cast (Knightley also makes the most of her solo female contributor, whilst both Mark Strong and Charles Dance provide welcome scene-chewing cameos), however, given his career choices, it never feels like that much of a stretch for the man to play an eccentric, aloof, near friend-less (and possibly homosexual) genius, does it? If there’s one criticism, it’s that the film focuses more on the Hollywood-friendly code-cracking than on the tortured soul who ended up a broken wreck; a far more tragic story beneath the surface which arguably should have been brought into focus more readily – and which would have made for a far more distinctive biopic.
After an hour of predictable stop-start code-breaking, following the narrative that everybody was expecting, a few more interesting elements finally hit the playing field, and you wonder whether this would have been a better film had it started halfway through and avoided all the mainstream plotting. From the 'what we did after we cracked the code' ideas to the 'what happened to them after the war was over' elements - not to mention the abortive attempt at pseudo-philosophising about 'what it takes to be a human', in a way that would make fans of Ex Machina roll their eyes - there are plenty of more interesting angles they could have taken with this piece, but the tried-and-tested approach adopted was clearly the least risky and the most commercially acceptable option.
Despite a strong cast and some great ideas hidden beneath, The Imitation Game still largely plays it safe for wider audience entertainment.
There is a dark core to The Imitation Game, which hints at a more compelling tale about winning the war via a triage-style 'greater good' approach, and ruining the man whose efforts largely made it happen, but these elements merely flavour an otherwise quite glossy, Hollywood-friendly take on the usual 'cracking the code' tale that, for the most part, plays it quite safe. It's a good film, and certainly worth watching, but never quite reaches the great heights to which it aspires.
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