“Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” - Joan Clarke
For the longest time this movie has intrigued me, mostly by virtue of it starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. It intrigued me further when I heard it was on the list of potential Oscar-baits. And then finally, my grandma told me that she’d already seen it and oh my gosh it was so great, so I was like, screw it, yes, let’s watch this shiznit.
The movie opens with Benny delivering the following lines: ‘Are you paying attention?’ And from that moment I was like, ‘yes, sir.’ The Imitation Game is a mind-blowing must-watch with elements that appeal to just about anybody in just about any audience.
STORY: This film is set in Britain during World War 2 and based on the true story of genius cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who was hired to decode Nazi messages which were created by a machine called Enigma. The biggest problem is that the settings of the machine are reset every day, so each day is a different code, thus allowing Germany to keep one step ahead of its enemies and preventing Britain from getting an upper hand in the war. To crack the code, Turing (with the help of a group of nerds known as the Bletchley Team) builds a machine that, despite several setbacks, will decode any message ever encrypted by Enigma. To us citizens of the 21st century, such a machine has advanced far beyond its original purpose, and they’re called computers. Actually, I used one to write this post. (Ehe, ehe, ehe!!!)
In fact, the film succeeds in simultaneously telling two stories: one about Britain trying to win a war while keeping it secret, and one about a homosexual man trying to crack a code and keep his sexual identity secret. At that period in time, to be gay was a crime (well, the way some people act about it now makes it still feel like a crime *rolls eyes*) and throughout the movie, even if Turing’s really quiet about it (like, really quiet about it, I didn’t suspect until the second flashback scene or so) you get the feeling that everything’s going to go to hell if people find out. In a way, at the end of the movie, it sort of does.
If there’s one thing The Imitation Game really does, apart than expose a previously secret but interesting and valuable part of war history in a brilliant and engaging way, it also brings to light a truth everybody should be familiar with by now: life isn’t fair. Alan Turing decoded Enigma and thereby shortened the war by more than two years. He should have gotten a bunch of medals and a happy ending, but was denied this just because of his sexual identity. The final scene of the film was the most painful for me to watch, as we see the real, emotional and mental effects that hormonal therapy (which he was forced to undertake) has on Alan, and which eventually causes him to kill himself (mentioned off-screen through those thoughtful captions which happen to be in just about every ‘based on a true story’ movie ever.)
CAST AND CHARACTERS: The Imitation Game has got an excellent cast. Apart from Benny and Keira, it stars Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Rory Kinnear and my personal, unprecedented favorite–Matthew Goode. Damn, that man is goode. In fact, they are all good. But most notable of all, of course, is Benedict Cumberbatch. His portrayal of Alan Turing– of brilliant, repressed, misunderstood and maddeningly logical Alan Turing– ranks well above the list of Things I Have the Ability to Even.
Matching Turing word for word and code for code is the equally brilliant Joan Clarke. Joan was never supposed to be part of Bletchley Team, just because she’s a woman; but she ends up becoming the single person who understands Alan completely (and who refuses to put up with his bullsh*t.) The pair end up getting engaged, but this arrangement is out of necessity so that Joan can keep living at Bletchley and so that Alan can further protect the truth about his homosexuality. This is the first time I have seen such an unorthodox, quirky, weird-ass and yet warm and fuzzy relationship on the big screen, so major props yet again to this movie for doing what it does. Every scene with Joan and Alan just lights up like a house at Christmas, so great is the chemistry between Cucumber Man and the Knightly One. Can we get more films where the lead male and female stay the bestest of best friends without falling in love?
SCREENPLAY: The screenplay manages to balance a whole bunch of elements, and yet hit all of the right notes in all of the stories it’s trying to tell. I loved the script to absolutely no end, it was so well-written and the entire film is just the right blend of just about everything. It’s perfect, believable and completely human, and says everything that could be possibly said, lines which instantly flesh out a character or show where their priorities are at, in just a couple of scenes or even less. It’s also got a sense of suspense that doesn’t really make it hard to breathe, but doesn’t really go away either, and a fair number of scenes that will make different people cry at different times. When Cumberbatch says ‘pay attention,’ you better pay attention, in order to understand some of the more tricky parts of the movie.
MUSIC: The music is nothing short of amazing and matches every scene perfectly, keeping you riveted to what’s happening onscreen. Oh, and it was composed by Alexandre Desplat, a fact which just made me roll my eyes and go ‘Aaah, no wonder it’s so great!’
ANYTHING ELSE?: I find it fitting that this movie came out at the time it did, just after the largely-discussed suicide of Leelah Alcorn, who also committed suicide because she knew she wouldn’t get the life she deserved if she was honest about her sexual identity. The Imitation Game is smart and sharp in its confrontation of such issues, asking us (in a very subtle, British fashion) to challenge the way we treat people who are different. It brings history to life while drawing focus to a particular element that remains pervasive even in present day. It teaches audiences to treat every challenge as nothing more than a game. And it’s a movie that’s going to make you want to solve a damn crossword puzzle and hug your nearest gay friend– and your laptop computer, too.