|'Transforms history into both a taut espionage-fuelled thriller and a heartfelt period drama'.|
Should the success of a film that purports to depict real events be judged on its historical accuracy? The evidence from cinema's past suggests that, whilst many have tried to do exactly that, ultimately the quality of a film and the enjoyment it provides to audiences will win out against how closely the facts have been adhered to. The Imitation Game has had the finger pointed at it more than most of the recent healthy crop of feature films "based on true events" for playing fast and loose with the truth, to the extent of some declaring it to be more fiction than fact.
Whilst even a rudimentary level of investigation does uncover differences between the Alan Turing played in the film by Benedict Cumberbatch and the real man, as well as the events surrounding the cracking of the German Enigma at Bletchley Park during World War II, whether or not this is enough to blemish the overall film is ultimately a personal choice for each viewer. If you can put aside historical accuracy and take The Imitation Game purely as a cinematic work (something which I found quite easy to do) then the film must be seen as an overwhelming success.
Director Morten Tyldum's film has more in common with another 20th Century historical film, James Marsh's The Theory Of Everything, than having the life of a British genius at its core. Tyldum's film occupies a version of England aesthetically similar to that seen in the Hawking biopic, complete with Received Pronunciation accents and cucumber sandwiches on the lawns of Bletchley. Whilst there are occasional moments of blunt cliché in presenting 1940s society - a scene where code-breaker Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) is directed to the secretarial offices upon her arrival at Bletchley because she's a woman feels particularly heavy-handed, no matter how authentic the sexism might be - but thankfully the director far more often than not manages a more satisfying and refined level of execution here.
The sharply written screenplay from Graham Moore continuously transforms history into both a taut espionage-fuelled thriller and a heartfelt period drama. The film effortlessly shifts between a triptych of time periods in Turing's life, with the centrepiece of his work in Hut 8 effectively flanked by flashbacks to his schooldays in the late 1920s, and a police investigation into Turing's then illegal homosexuality sparked by a robbery at his home in 1951. There's not a single weak link amongst the cast, with Mark Strong's cloak-and-dagger portrayal of MI6 head Stewart Menzies and Matthew Goode's measured turn as Hugh Alexander offering particular highlights. Even Knightley, not known in the past for her reliability in more dramatically challenging roles, puts in a consistently impressive performance as Turing's colleague and close friend Clarke.
This is Cumberbatch's film from his opening voiceover onwards, however, with the actor delivering yet another dependably excellent turn in a regularly demanding role. Perhaps the only thing that can be taken away from Cumberbatch is that this is the latest in a growing line of intellectually gifted yet socially awkward characters to add to his filmography; Turing occasionally feels a little too much like Sherlock without the bravado. That familiarity is perhaps one reason for the actor losing out to fellow Brit Eddie Redmayne for Best Actor at the Academy Awards earlier this year. But as arguably one of the most talented British actors working today, Cumberbatch's performance in The Imitation Game makes it all the more certain he will walk away with at least one Oscar of his own sooner rather than later.