The Imitation Game is a worthy tribute to the genius and tragedy of the great British codebreaker, Alan Turing. Only last year was Turing posthomously granted a Royal pardon for ‘gross indecency’, his homosexuality making him forced to undergo chemical castration which led to his suicide.
It’s an engrossing thriller, owing much to its performances above its writing, which can be a little sappy. “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of, who do the things that no one can imagine” is a refrain underlined in the film’s trailer, the kind of ‘important’, clunky dialogue which can easily spoil a biopic but only manages to sound remotely rousing due to Keira Knightley providing some of her best work with very little as Turing’s colleague. The omnipresent Benedict Cumberbatch is inevitably superb but perhaps the standout performance comes from the little known Alex Lawther, a young actor who is absolutely terrific as the young Turing, fabulously awkward and convincing in his internal conflict.
The film’s title comes from a game Turing devised to ascertain whether someone was speaking to a man, woman or machine. Turing’s relationship with artificial intelligence provides the film’s main antagonism, although it makes no effort to actually explain the technicalities of codebreaking which is a shame because it stops his genius from coming completely to life. What it does capture is his obsession and drive as both Turing and his machine attempt to unravel coded communications from a very complicated, malicious world around them.
Review by David Rank
The Imitation Game is out now. Running time 112 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).