By William Wolf


A thoroughly engrossing film, among the best of 2014, has been made about one of the great achievements during World War II. “The Imitation Game,” prominently showcased at the 2014 Toronto international Film Festival, tells the story of the way in which mathematician Alan Turing figured out how to break the Nazi Enigma code, thereby saving countless lives and helping the Allies shorten the war. Benedict Cumberbatch gives an award-caliber performance as Turing, portrayed with in-depth insight into the unusual man, quirks and all, with added emphasis on his relationship with his colleagues.

The film, astutely written by Graham Moore and directed by Morten Tyldum, is rich in the recreated atmosphere of the Bletchley Park location dedicated to the code-breaking operation. Turing’s impassioned and creative leadership is fueled by his concept of an early computer that could crack the code in the face of skepticism by those who want to cut off funds for the operation. Turing’s stalwart battle to follow through on his method is melodramatically and convincingly depicted.

The film is given a further human face via the character of colleague Joan Clarke, luminously portrayed by Keira Knightly. A strong, romantic bond develops between them. However, Turing is gay, so the relationship depends on their emotional interaction rather than sexuality.

Cumberbatch’s performance is both exciting and heartbreaking, given what we know about what happened to Turing after the war. With homosexuality illegal in England, he was persecuted and escaped prison only by agreeing to undergo chemical castration. He soon committed suicide. The film, however, concentrates on his World War II achievement.

(In December, 2013, Turing was pardoned by Queen Elizabeth.)

Vital supporting performances include those by Matthew Goode, Roy Kinnear, Charles Dance and Mark Strong. Not only is the superb “The Imitation Game” an excellent historical film, but it reminds us of what an important person Turing was and how much credit he deserves in the saga of World War II. A Weinstein Company release. Reviewed September 30, 2014.


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