This review was originally published October 23, 2014 as part of The Reel Deal’s 2014 Heartland Film Festival Coverage.
If you’ve never heard of Alan Turing you’re not alone. Turing is not a name spoken in most history classrooms. He is not remembered as a famous pioneer in British history. And the filmmakers and creators of The Imitation Game have set out to change this.
The film also explores the reasons why the general public may have never heard of this war hero. Not only was the project top secret and then classified for fifty years, Turing was gay, which was illegal in Britain until 1967. He was convicted of indecency in 1952, and consequently committed suicide in 1954 at the age of 41. He was pardoned only as recently as 2013.
However, you don’t need to know about Alan Turing before you see the film. It does a stunning job of telling his story. Technically, it was a very good film. The costumes were vibrant, the form cuts in the editing were striking, and the beats of the story structure were almost flawless. The film was directed by Morten Tyldum, a native of Norway. Neither the director nor writer are huge names in the business, but if this film is anything to go by, they will be. The writer, Graham Moore, has produced a narrative that hits all the right emotional peaks and valleys for an audience.
The performances also added to the emotion of the film. The absolute transformation that Benedict Cumberbatch brings to his work is extremely present in this film. Given that no voice or video recordings exist of Turing, Cumberbatch based his performance on practically nothing. Some people have been comparing this role to his title character in the BBC’s Sherlock. While it might be true that Cumberbatch is very good at playing the intellectual loner type, this performance and character draw almost nothing from the famous detective he’s become known for portraying. There has already been Oscar buzz, but Cumberbatch has said that he only cares that such buzz will get people to see the film and learn about Turing’s incredible and tragic life.
There were plenty of other stellar performances by the supporting cast. Keira Knightley plays Joan Clarke, close friend and confidante of Turing. Knightley didn’t have much to go on for her performance either, making it all the more impressive. Honorable acting mention goes to Alex Lawther, who plays a young Turing at boarding school. Not only was it a beautiful performance, but the way he mirrored Cumberbatch’s own is truly inspired. Matthew Goode and Allen Leech play other members of the code-cracking group alongside a myriad of other character actors whose faces audiences will almost immediately recognize.
The Imitation Game is an incredible, true underdog story. Anyone can relate to what it feels like to be an outsider; to do what you know to be correct in the face of overwhelming opposition. The life of Alan Turing was definitely filled with opposition. This film fits Heartland’s “truly moving picture” category as an inspiring piece of cinema that will leave its viewer with something more to think about.