The Imitation Game review

>Director Tyldum maintains the bold, authoritative style he adopted for 2011's impressive Headhunters with this true-life tale of legendary codebreaker Alan Turing. Cumberbatch gives a superb performance as the socially inept, literally minded mathematician employed by stern naval commander Dance to break the German Enigma machine. It's very entertaining seeing Turing putting the backs up of his fellow code breakers, chiefly charmer Hugh (Goode) – all well spoken young men out of their depth in the wartime setting of Bletchley Park.

For much of the way The Imitation Games plays like a slick and sharp thriller, what with Turing constantly frustrated as his efforts are regularly thwarted by lack of time and lack of support from superiors. But it also has more ambitious plans too. We see flashbacks to young Alan's schooldays. Here Lawther is excellent as the awkward and bullied boy who strikes up a particular friendship with a fellow classmate.

We also see how the womenfolk at Bletchley were treated by the patronising and sexist males, chiefly Joan (a radiant Knightley doing wonders with a dull part), the lone girl taken on by Turing to help break the codes. They meet clandestinely as she cannot be seen working with the boys. A cold war spy element is also present as there is a traitor in their midst selling their secrets to the Russians. And to cap it all, the narrative is framed by events in 1951, with Kinnear's trusty cop investigating Turing's vandalised flat. This was because of a violent homosexual encounter that Turing was arrested for – the tale bringing into focus the intolerant attitudes of the time, homosexuality being a criminal act.

So for a good portion of the time there is perhaps too much going on here to fully grip, but it rights itself come the conclusion, ending on a tragic and powerful note that makes one equally emotive and enraged. Your heart breaks when he tries to do a crossword puzzle again.

Overall then, a very fine movie – classy and compelling with rich turns from the leads and top notch support. If it doesn't quite hit the bullseye it certainly comes close, and deserves much praise for tackling a worthy subject so accessibly and so confidently. 

The Imitation Game at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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