By Megan Bianco
Right next to James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything, the go-to British period piece for the 2014 Oscar season has become Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game. Continuing lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s string of Oscar contenders after 12 Years a Slave and August: Osage Country the previous year, and aiding in Keira Knightley’s comeback alongside Begin Again and Laggies, the biopic is a treat for anyone who is a fan of British film. The feature not only has a talented cast, but also sheds light on an overlooked yet fascinating piece of World War II history.
In 1951, respected university professor Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) is robbed and surprisingly doesn’t press charges. When Detective Nock (Rory Kinnear) finds the situation and Turing suspicious, he goes on a search to discover a decade-old secret. Turing had lead a group of mathematicians, including Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) and Joan Clarke (Knightley), to create the first computer and break the secret Nazi Enigma code. At the same time, Turing is hiding the personal secret of his homosexuality, shown in flashbacks.
The Imitation Game not only has two talented leads, but also a good set of supporting actors, including Charles Dance, Alex Lawther and Mark Strong. Although Cumberbatch has always looked appropriate in period pieces and has a knack for nailing certain dialects, as he does here, the scene stealers are actually Knightley and Goode as the two code-breakers pushing the troubled genius to open up and complete his brainchild. They bring a touch of wit and sincerity, on top of being good looking and charming.
Tyldum, a Norwegian director with a short resume of crime-thrillers, is hired for the task of bringing to life an important part of British history, and does so without overwhelming the audience with a ton of information or statistics that might go over the viewers’ heads. The flashbacks used throughout the film are fluid and coherent. Both Cumberbatch and Lawther in the flashback sequences portray a genius with not only a gift, but also socially blunt and awkward, yet internally feeling shame about his sexuality. With characteristics that would have come across as Rain Man-lite, Tyldum, Cumberbatch and Knightley help tell the story about Turing that deserves to be told. The director and two actors have been getting nominations from practically every awards circuit this season, and fittingly so. Though British biopics have become cliché around the Oscars, this is one of the more fascinating and worthwhile.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.
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