Benedict Cumberbatch gives an Oscar-worthy performance in Morten Tyldrum’s (Headhunters) well-structured and scripted (Graham Moore), gripping biopic of Alan Turing, now hailed as the father of the computer age, a war hero ahead of his time yet appallingly treated after the war. At the famous Bletchley Park code-breaking centre, Turing invented the proto-computer that broke German Enigma code and shortened the war. The Imitation Game – the name of his test for telling the difference between a human and a machine – unravels his complex development as a human being through layers of intercut time lines – postwar, the war, his formative schooldays plus wartime archive footage.
Cumberbatch mercurially portrays Turing as an individualistic outsider – he’s different, driven, quiet, determined, brilliant, yet socially awkward, possibly with Asperger’s. His life is a mixture of secrets, wartime and personal – he was homosexual in an age when it was illegal and tragically prosecuted after the war, leading to his suicide. From this crucial police station interview, the film in flashback reveals his achievements, so top secret that no recognition was ever given and all records destroyed. Keira Knightley is cut-glass and surprisingly convincing as Joan Clark, another code breaker, her work even less recognised than his. Her empathy humanises him, she is unfazed when he confesses the truth of his sexuality, and they are briefly engaged. They are supported by a range of excellent actors, including Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode and Rory Kinnear.
The Imitation Game is showing on Oct 8th, 9th & 10th at the 58th BFI London Film Festival