When The King’s Speech won the much coveted Academy Award for Best Picture in 2011 – amongst three other awards – it came as a surprise to filmgoers that this seemingly unambitious period drama from Britain could go and win big at the prestigious annual event. It also gave hope to fellow filmmakers treading similar territory, that films of this ilk could be triumphant across the world; and in Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, we have another contender on our hands. Though if this production was to emulate Tom Hooper’s endeavour, it would come as much less of a surprise, such is the sheer brilliance of this moving piece of cinema.
Based on real events during the Second World War, the focal point is Alan Turing, played with stunning conviction by Benedict Cumberbatch. He was a shrewd genius, who was able to complete the most complex of puzzles, and yet would struggle to comprehend the workings of other people. However when employed by the government to undertake the near-impossible task of cracking the code for the Enigma machine, he came into his element, knowing that any success would provide the British army with unlimited access to the Nazi’s plans; allowing them the opportunity to counteract attacks and give them the chance of putting an end to this barbaric war. All the while locking horns with his commander Denniston (Charles Dance), while entering into a relationship with colleague Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) – despite the fact he’s a closet homosexual, which was considered to be illegal at the time.
The Imitation Game excels in the marriage of the more race-against-time aspects of the narrative – in how this team of cryptanalysts desperately attempt to crack the Enigma – with the intimate character study of a troubled, complex man, harbouring what was considered to be a dangerous secret. Turing was an immensely nuanced man with such depth; a complete genius at mathematics and yet so inept in social situations. It’s a role that Cumberbatch has excelled in, in his finest performance to date. He encapsulates and embodies Turing and his sensibilities to perfection, and while you may go into this project knowing very little about the man, you leave feeling as though you’ve known him your whole life.
So while much of the emotionality of this piece is left up to Cumberbatch to achieve, Tyldum – who brought us the brilliant thriller Headhunters – uses his experience to make a compelling, engrossing watch that is as captivating in its sentimentality as it is within the more edge-of-your-seat elements. It’s a real gem of British cinema, and if The King’s Speech managed to do it…