The Imitation Game, written by Graham Moore, directed by Morton Tyldum, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, tells the true story of Alan Turing and his work on the Enigma machine at Bletchley Park during World War II.
The film follows Turing, a brilliant mathematician and a man who is widely disliked because he is very difficult, though in a way that seems more intrinsic than intentional. Turing gets a job as a code breaker at Bletchley Park, where he works with a team that includes Matthew Goode and one woman, Joan (Knightley), who is significant for several reasons, one of which being that she is a woman working with the code breakers, defying the general social mores of the time and the other being that she covers up Turing’s big secret.
Turing is gay, and living in a time when that is illegal, he proposes to Joan. The fact that he is gay is relevant to the film for two reasons. The impetus of the story is the result of a break in at Turing’s apartment that leads to the discovery of his sexuality and his punishment of chemical castration. As a true story, it is heartbreaking to learn what became of a man who gave so much of himself to his country during a time of great crises, only to be betrayed by that country. It also leads to Turing being very lonely, and that loneliness, rather than his sexuality, is what informs his character.
The film does not dwell on Turing’s sexuality, but weaves the issues it brings into a beautifully written screenplay that builds suspense even as we know the end, as is wont in historically based films. As the team works to break the Enigma code, the script does its job in bringing suspense, something that is particularly challenging to a screenwriter when the material is based on historical events. Moore does an amazing job, and won the Academy Award for his effort.
From the beginning, the film shows the stakes, following Joan as she walks through a London strewn with sites that have been bombed. It also sticks to the characters, rather than trying to follow the war at large, allowing the film to feel personal even as the characters struggle with a goal that will have global implications.
The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture. Among the nominations included Cumberbatch, nominated for Best Performance By An Actor in a leading role, and Knightley, nominated for Best Performance by an actress in a supporting role. Both do a wonderful job of portraying their characters and the struggles they face, which while different, are still quite similar. Turing is trying to fit into a world that doesn’t seem to have a place for him, whether because of his sexuality or his personality, while Joan struggles to fit into a world that isn’t ready to accept her in the way she would like because of her gender.
The film is well worth watching, with a story that is entertaining and high stakes, both emotionally and plot wise. It has a strong script and performances to support the story.
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