The Imitation Game written by Graham Moore and directed by Morten Tyldum (The Weinstein Company, Black Bear Pictures, Bristol Automotive, PG-13, 114 min)
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kiera Knightley, Matthew Goode, and Charles Dance.
The Weight of Story
In my line of work, we like to remind clients that a logo cannot bear the full weight of a brand. If you try to inject every little part of the business into your visual expression, it will break under such immensity.
The same principle applies to many forms of art. If you try and do too much, it’s going to be a mess. It doesn’t matter if it’s a song, a story, or a sculpture, throw too much into the mix and the recipe goes bad.
Three in One
This principle represents my thoughts on The Imitation Game. It wants to be three movies in one. If it took one theme and let the movie breathe, it would’ve been a much better movie. Instead, the film tries to represent a World War II film ala Saving Private Ryan minus the gore, a savant-style biopic ala A Beautiful Mind, and a political think piece ala Milk.
As such, the producers overstuff the film.
Cracking the Code
Set nonlinearly, mostly during the peak of the Luftwaffe’s blitz on London with post-war scenes in the early 50s and childhood scenes in the late 20s, The Imitation Game tells the story of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch).
A mathematical genius and the father of modern computers, Turing receives a call from Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance) to assist on the cryptography team tasked with breaking the ciphers from the German-created Enigma machine.
A contentious and polarizing figure, Turing refuses to work with the team, sectioning himself off to create a machine that can decode the German machine.
With the help of a brilliant Cambridge graduate, Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightley), Turing develops Christopher, a machine aimed at cracking the code. The ability to unlock the puzzle would shift the tide of the war.
While this story functions as the core component of the film, The Imitation Game also narrates the downfall of Turing after the war when he faces chemical castration to continue his work after society discovers his homosexual activities.
Needs Room to Breathe
Visually, the film captures the mind with deep colors and Benedict Cumberbatch provides a stellar performance.
But I can’t get past the bursting-at-the-seams plot. Stories need room to breathe. Narratives need to build in order to convey sufficient stakes. Too often, The Imitation Game feels like a swift story crossing off parts of Turing’s life, without ever letting the drama of the story take over. For this reason, I find it difficult to recommend this film.
Overall: 2.5 out of 5