The Imitation Game: Secrets and Lies

Alan Turing was one of the unsung heroes of World War II. A brilliant, eccentric and supremely egocentric mathematician and cryptologist, he spearheaded England’s efforts to break the German’s “Enigma” code, thereby providing the Allies with invaluable information. Without the efforts of Turing and his team, a strong argument could be made that Germany could easily have won the war.

It was Turing who broke the code, but who was years later himself broken, emotionally and spiritually, by the revealing of his own secret identity — that of a closeted homosexual, at the time a criminal offense. In 1954, he would commit suicide.

The Imitation Game, a title that clearly offers more than one meaning, is the well-written and well-directed dramatization of key events in Turing’s life, some likewise key turning points in World War II.

Although Turing’s story formed the basis for Hugh Whit more’s acclaimed stage drama Breaking the Code, first-time screenwriter Graham Moore has taken Andrew Hodges’ biography Alan Turing: The Enigma as the source for the film, which is directed in compassionate fashion by Morten Tyldum.

In a true star turn, Benedict Cumberbatch is first-rate as the brilliant and conflicted Turing, whose assignment to Bletchley Park to work on the code-breaking project is complicated by his dismissive, condescending attitude to the fellow members of the team – great brains all.

Wisely, Tyldum allows room for a sparkling supporting cast to maneuver around Cumberbatch, which helps to enhance the drama considerably. Keira Knightley is excellent as Joan  Marsh, the only female code-breaker, as are Matthew Goode, Matthew Beard and Allen Leach as the other team members. Rory Kinnear, son of the late (and great)

character actor Roy Kinnear, plays the detective whose doggedness in investigating Turing in the early ‘50s unwittingly causes his downfall.

Overseeing the code-breaking operation, in suitably imperious fashion, are Charles Dance, customarily fine as the skeptical, antagonistic Commander Denniston, and Mark Strong as Menzies, the MI6 operative in charge. When told, “there is no MI6,” he allows himself a smile to put to rest that suggestion. His threats, veiled and otherwise, are delivered in the most civil, therefore most chilling, way possible. Few actors play that as well as Strong, who continues to prove his versatility as heroes, villains, and characters in-between.

Even with the eventual outcome of the war known to all (hopefully!), The Imitation Game generates a good measure of tension and suspense throughout. Despite some obvious CGI effects, the film is a class act, top to bottom.