Alan Turing might just be the most important World War II figure whom you’ve never heard of. The British mathematician was a prominent figure in helping the Allied powers break the Nazi’s Enigma Code, an event which led to an Allied victory. Surprisingly, it seems like Turing has never received the recognition that he so rightfully deserved, but The Imitation Game attempts to tell his story. Directed by Morten Tyldum, it’s a well-made biopic about a truly extraordinary individual. The script by Graham Moore successfully takes a look at who Turing was, while also highlighting why his accomplishments were so important. The entire cast is great, but it’s Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as Turing that really steals the show. The film may begin to drag a bit in its second half, but it’s got a great ending that will surely move audiences and make them appreciate all of the work that Turing has done for the world.

As World War II rages on, the Allied powers are struggling for victory. The Germans continue to dominate, partially due to their unbreakable secret code. To decipher the code, listeners needed an Enigma Machine and they needed to know what settings the machine needed to be placed at. The machine offered billions of different settings, making it nearly impossible for someone to actually figure out what setting the Germans were actually using. To make matters worse, the Germans used a new setting for their machines every day, so anyone trying to decipher the code only had an 18 hour window between morning and midnight to do so. Because the code was so difficult to crack, the British government sought the help of some of the greatest mathematicians and linguists that the country had to offer. One of these men was Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Turing was a difficult man to get along with and he alienated many of the scholars with whom he was supposed to cooperate. Although he was not initially in charge of cracking the Enigma Code, he was placed in charge after writing to Winston Churchill. Instead of trying to crack the code manually, Turing came up with the idea to build a machine that would be able to crack the code for him. He received a lot of negativity with this idea, particularly from one of his superiors, Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance). But after hiring a smart young woman named Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), Turing’s team began to support him and helped him develop this machine. Little did they know that they were building something that would still be studied and have an influence today: one of the world’s first computers.

The Imitation Game has received some criticism for skewing the facts of this true life story, but that hardly matters when the film is so gripping and effective. Tyldum takes a story that could have come across as dull due to its heavy focus on code breaking and shapes it into quite the compelling thriller. Even though the outcome of the film is fairly obvious for anyone with a basic understanding of history, it’s still very interesting to watch these men and women race against the clock in an attempt to solve an unbreakable code. The film does begin to hit a lull in its second half and it probably could have used some tighter work in the editing room, but there are still some great scenes that pop up towards the end of the film. The film’s best scene occurs when Turing and his coworkers discover a vital piece of war intelligence and must decide whether to act on the information or keep it a secret. It’s a tough choice and it becomes even more difficult when they learn that the life of a family member is at stake.

Sure, the film does feel a bit “awards-baity” at times, but at least it emotionally resonates and features some great performances. Benedict Cumberbatch seems to be in everything nowadays, but he definitely gives his best film performance here as Turing. He’s an eccentric guy, one who is undeniably brilliant, but also quite difficult to get along with. Everything from the way that he moves to the way that he talks feels unique and Cumberbatch ably inhabits all of the characters idiosyncrasies. Regardless of whether his character traits were exaggerated for the movie, Cumberbatch makes them feel entirely real. Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode also deliver fine performances, but it’s Alex Lawther as the young Turing who really surprises. His flashback scenes may feel unnecessary at first, but Lawther is great in the role, particularly in a scene where the school principal delivers him some tragic news. I still wasn’t a huge fan of these flashback scenes altogether, but they do end up fitting into the film’s plot in a very emotional way.

Viewers who may not have a firm grasp on the subject material of the film before viewing don’t need to worry, because Tyldum and Moore set up the situation and the characters in a very easy-to-follow way. The technical credits behind the camera are also great, with Oscar Faura’s cinematography Maria Djurkovic’s production design working together nicely. Alexandre Desplat’s score is also unique and interesting, further proving why he’s one of the best film composers working today. The Imitation Game is certainly not amazing, but it’s a finely crafted period piece, one that tells an exciting and emotional historical account that is still relevant today.

The Imitation Game receives 3/4

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