The Imitation Game DVD Review

DVD Review by Li-Ming Hu
The Imitation Game

The Premise
Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain's top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

The Review
London 1951.  Mathematician Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who seems to be excel at playing antisocial geniuses with a capital G, has had his flat burgled. Despite doing his obnoxious best to get the police to f off, he ends up in the interrogation room. Scene set for mega flashback to Turing’s code breaking days in WWII.

Although we kind of know the ending, it's still compelling stuff. The recruitment of the code breaking A team and their working relationship offers plenty of human interest, and the ensemble cast offer solid performances and make the most of the many witty moments in Graham Moore’s script. Cumberbatch is outstanding and manages to pack a lot of emotional punch under a façade of acerbic hauteur. The Imitation Game strikes an artful balance between the personal and the socio-political which, in my view, is where the best history lies. Although most of the action takes place in the relatively insulated environment of Bletchley Park, the intercutting with frontline bombings, submarines and battlefields offers a reality check about the high stakes under which Turing and his team were operating, in case we needed reminding.

It’s perhaps not surprising that the war’s end, with the burning of evidence and disbanding of a team who have worked together for years who must then pretend they are strangers, is where things begin to get a little ropey. There are a few too many ponderous intervals punctuated by swelling strings and twinkling pianos. The made for trailer phrase “sometimes it’s the people no-one expects anything of, that do the things that no-one can imagine” stands up under first and second iterations but when poor Keira Knightley as concerned friend Joan Clarke has to trot it out for a third time we’re on shaky ground. However, the strong story and the excellent performances save the film from mawkishness as it changes gears from thriller to tragedy.

The Verdict
An intriguing, well told story that makes you want to know more about Turing, Enigma, and homosexual law reform.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 1st January 2014
Rating: TBC
Duration: 114 minutes 
Genre:  Drama Thriller
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode
Director: Morten Tyldum (Headhunters, Fallen Angels)

The Extras
In an interview with USA Today, Cumberbatch said of Turing's Royal Pardon, "The only person who should be pardoning anybody is him (Turing). Hopefully, the film will bring to the fore what an extraordinary human being he was and how appalling (his treatment by the government was). It's a really shameful, disgraceful part of our history."

Winston Churchill considered that Alan Turing contributed more than any individual to winning the war.

Cumberbatch confessed that in one of the final scenes of the film he couldn't stop shaking and crying and had a breakdown due to his attachment and affection to his character.

In an interview for GQ, Matthew Goode stated that the film focuses on "Turing's life and how as a nation we celebrated him as being a hero by chemically castrating him because he was gay."

The film's screenplay topped the annual Black List for best un-produced Hollywood scripts of 2011.

The Weinstein Company acquired the film for a record-breaking $7 million, the highest ever amount paid for US distribution rights at the European Film Market.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing are actually related in real-life. According to the family history site Ancestry, the two are 17th cousins with family relations dating back to the 14th century. Both are said to be related to John Beaufort, the first Earl of Somerset, through Cumberbatch and Turing's respective paternal lines.