If ever there was a story worth telling, it’s Alan Turing’s. His is one of the most heartbreaking, tragic, infuriating, heroic, historic, groundbreaking and profoundly impactful lives that has ever been lived—and yet, most people have never heard of him. That may all change with the new movie The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, who brings Turing to life and compellingly delivers one of the best performances of the year, if not the best.
The Imitation Game tells the story of Turing’s life, with a clear emphasis on the part where he significantly contributed to winning World War II by helping to crack the German Enigma code, which allowed the Allies to intercept and read the messages the Germans were relaying to each other about their bombing runs and attack strategies. But let’s just say Alan Turing was not treated as heroically as he should have been, considering the contribution he made to the war effort—shortening the war by 2 years and saving an estimated 14 million lives. The story of Turing’s life is public knowledge and has been dramatized many times, including the famous play “Breaking the Code,” but I still won’t reveal the details here for those who don’t know them (I don’t want to ruin the movie), but let me just say they are heartbreaking and infuriating.
As for the experience of the movie itself, there is no way to get around the performance of Cumberbatch. It is the movie. He is such a dominating force there is almost no air left for anyone or anything else. It doesn’t help that the movie is such a paint-by-numbers, conventional bio-pic, packed with standard scenes, stock characters and predictable moments played out for dramatic effect. But, through it all, Cumberbatch is so magnetic, it almost doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing or saying. This is just one of those times, as happens quite often, that an incredible performance can make an average film better.
If The Imitation Game and Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance can bring a renewed spotlight onto the life and work of Alan Turing, then I have nothing but praise for it and want to encourage everyone to go to the theatre to bask in the brilliant work that Cumberbatch delivers that could very well result in a golden reward come February.