A Sincere Form of Flattery: Review of “The Imitation Game”

Hey look! It's Smaug!

Hey look! It’s Smaug!

Rated PG-13, 114 minutes (watched 2/16/15)

The Imitation Game has a lot going for it. It has a great cast, an engaging backstory, and a new twist on a genre I thought had been mined just about as much as possible: World War II. It’s good, it’s true, it’s different, and I enjoyed it. I’m just not sure it knows what it is. Benedict Cumberbatch is Alan Turing, the man behind what he called “thinking machines.” His contemporaries called them “Turing machines.” We call them computers.

A tall, awkward, socially inept fellow who had zero interests in shouldering a rifle, Turing’s contribution to the war was to join teams of mathematicians, linguists and intelligence officers to break the German’s Enigma code. If the Allies could break it, they would know the German’s movements and plans and could potentially save thousands of lives, or even bring the war to a swift end. The problem was that the Enigma machine was mind-bogglingly complex, and the variables and codes changed each day at midnight.

Turing realized that traditional code breaking wasn’t going to work with Enigma. The odds of stumbling across the the right key for that day were astronomical. In order to break a code created by a machine the Allies needed another machine… one that imitates the human brain.

So The Imitation Game is a thriller. Can Turing convince the higher ups to fund his method? Well, you can probably guess. But to be fair, there were a few twists along the way I wasn’t expecting. It’s as thrilling as it could be, I suppose.

It’s also a movie about ethics. How much is one solider’s life worth? It is worth sacrificing a thousand lives today that you might save 10,000 lives tomorrow? (I won’t spoil how this comes into play.)

It’s also an issue movie. I didn’t know anything about Turing going in, but he was gay. Despite a sort0f kinda maybe relationship-ish thing with Joan (Keira Knightly), he battled to keep the truth about himself hidden. When the truth comes to light post-war, he has two options under the insane British laws of the time: jail, or chemical castration. All but the most extreme Westboro types will see this for what it is: barbaric. You don’t have to march in pride parades or be in favor of gay marriage to know these laws are inhuman.

The Imitation Game however seems to think we need convincing. I didn’t. I get it. Instead, what happens is that the movie can’t decide if it wants to be the WWII thriller or an advocacy film. Personally, I think it suffers because of it. The cutting back and forth between the main action, Turing’s childhood obsessions and a later scenes of Turing’s life? Distracting.

Other than the stories lack of focus, I rather enjoyed it. The rest of the cast turn in fine performances, especially Knightly as math student Joan. Knightly is a very watchable actress, and she offered spark and personality where Cumberbatch was all quizzical looks like perturbed scowls. He, also, however, is a very watchable actor. I can see why he is such a star on British TV.

imitation game tix

All that’s wonderful, but what’s the movie’s grade? I’m in a hurry here, buddy.  Umm…. 3.5/5. You can keep on the individual bits and pieces, just organize them better.

Where do I know that guy from?
Allen Leech, who plays a codebreaker named John Cairncross, kept convincing me he was Sean Astin. He was/is not. He is Allen. He is apparently on Downton Abbey, not the star of Rudy.

What is the star’s spirit animal?
Hmm… Interesting question. He’s maybe a capybara? Perhaps a llama? Ooh, an otter.

What color socks are you wearing right now?
I’m barefoot :-)

Spoiler alert!
The movie’s name has more than one meaning…

Megan’s Take:
She’s a big fan of World War II movies, and she said she enjoyed this new spin on it. 4/5.

Heard any good jokes lately?
Two fish are in a tank. One drives, the other mans the gun. Two solidiers are in a tank. They drowned. :-(

Snacks eaten:
I can’t remember! :-( I feel like we had popcorn?

Unrelated Word of the Day:
Heliolatry: noun / hee-lee-OL-uh-tree / worship of the sun.

Would the movie have been any better with the addition of Morgan Freeman as narrator? I think the goal of a good narrator is to help focus the story, so yeah, maybe Morgan Freeman could have helped.

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