The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game

Directed by Morten Tyldum, UK, 2014

The title of the story of Alan Turing is “The Imitation Game,” after one of his important publications. It might as well have been “Enigma.” This word does not only describe the “unbreakable” Nazi code that Turing broke, but describes Turing himself.

It’s not surprising that Benedict Cumberbatch nails this role – after all his breakout role was playing another impenetrable genius, Sherlock Holmes. Holmes isn’t much of a mystery to the audience, he’s ubiquitous enough that we all pretty much know his deal. Turing is still a mystery, even after watching an entire film about his life.

Cumberbatch’s performance does not have the degree of difficulty that some other roles have. It is firmly in his comfort zone and it doesn’t involve a physical transformation. If he loses award season to Eddie Redmayne, this is why.

But what does award season mean when compared to a story such as Turing’s? Turing was well known for decades as the mathematician behind modern artificial intelligence and, along with Nikola Tesla, one of the key minds behind our modern, wireless age. What wasn’t known until the 1990’s was that Turning applied those ideas to create a digital computer during World War II that broke the “unbreakable” Enigma code, shortened World War II by years, and saved millions of lives.

It’s an important story – and a well told one. Now consider that if this film, or “The Theory of Everything” were to win Best Picture it would four for five of the last Best Picture wins to come from Europe, three from the UK (The Artist was primarily a French production).

Hollywood’s business model is increasingly centered around the “franchise” movie and thoughtful films for adults are becoming limited to a couple releases around the Holidays from Fox Searchlight or Sony Pictures Classics. As this trend continues, I predict we’re going to see more and more great films from the UK.

British cinema has always, to a certain extent, been limited by the English speaking movie making behemoth across the ocean. There have always been great British films, but only a dozen or so had received accolades in the United States. Many of these films, such as “Lawrence of Arabia” were joint US/UK productions. Hollywood’s evolving business model leaves a lot of room for important English language films to be made by someone else – in this case the UK. We’re at the cusp of a golden age of British cinema, and films like “The Imitation Game” will become more and more frequent as the years go on.

You might like the Imitation Game if: You are interested in mathematics, Alan Turing, World War II, or Benedict Cumberbatch.

You might not like the Imitation Game if: You only like World War II movies with lots of explosions and bad dialogue.

(c) 2014 D.G. McCabe