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Nov 28 2014
IMITATION Of Life: A Review Of THE IMITATION GAME Comments (0)


BOY CULTURE RATING: *** out of ****

Though it's long overdue, Alan Turing (1912—1954)—the genius who led a group that cracked the code of the Nazis' Enigma machine and helped win WWII for the Allies—is being toasted as a hero. CumberbatchThe father of the modern computer received a posthumous pardon in 2013 and is the subject of a major motion picture, The Imitation Game, which documents his unique mind and the mistreatment (he was prosecuted for being gay and chemically castrated) that led to his suicide at age 41.

The film is a respectful, if simplified, treatment of Turing's life, which was also the subject of a 2012 documentary called Codebreaker. In it, Benedict Cumberbatch turns in a beautifully modulated performance as the socially stunted Turing, with Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, an adventurous woman whose mind Turing respected even though his sexual orientation precluded the romance she desired. They nearly married, Turing was so fond of her—but he cared too deeply for her to allow her to enter into a sexless union.

The film is more successful than the documentary in conjuring Turing's boyhood love for a classmate, which seems to have haunted him for the rest of his short life. With able support from—among others— Matthew Goode (caddish Hugh Alexander), Mark Strong (mysterious Maj. Gen. Menzies), Charles Dance (villainous Commander Denniston) and Downton Abbey hottie Allen Leech (wily John Caircross)—the leads present a most unusual film couple, one bonded by their intellect and their desire to do the right thing for their country, rather than by romantic love or lust.

The screenplay had been a Black List winner for best unproduced script, but I found the resulting film to be, overall, a solid, satisfying and yet undistinguished telling of a remarkable tale. It isn't the most compelling film I've seen this year, but the performances—and the recognition it brings to Turing—make it well worth seeing and a likely awards-season fave.