The Imitation Game

Film , Drama
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 4 out of 5 stars
(7 user reviews)
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The Imitation Game

Hidden codes, secret meanings and mixed messages pulse through the reliable, old-fashioned, buzzing copper wires of true-life British period drama ‘The Imitation Game’. Snappy and not too solemn, but perhaps not as much of a psychological puzzle as it could have been, the film gives us key episodes in the tragic life of Alan Turing. He was the mathematician whose biting, anti-social intelligence briefly ran in step with the needs of the British war effort in the 1940s when he was employed to help break the Nazi Enigma code at Bletchley Park.

Turing’s wartime achievements – kept under wraps for years – counted for nothing when his homosexuality fell foul of the law in the early 1950s, sending an already fragile personality into freefall. Benedict Cumberbatch, no stranger to roles with a hint of sociopathic genius, delivers a performance more complicated and knottier than the film around him. The script tends to spell out its themes, repeating a corny slogan: ‘Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of, who do the things that no one can imagine.’ Cumberbatch, though, defies the film’s simplicity. His Turing is awkward, determined, at times comically stand-offish (a description that could just as easily apply to his Stephen Hawking, Julian Assange and Sherlock Holmes).

The film gives us three periods in Turing’s life: his schooldays, wartime service and final years in the early 1950s. We intermittently hear Turing on voiceover telling his life story to a suspicious police detective (Rory Kinnear) whose curiosity after a break-in at Turing’s home in 1951 leads to him being charged with gross indecency. Yet ‘The Imitation Game’ is coy on the three pillars of Turing’s story – sex, science and suicide – preferring to nod to each without getting into the messy details.

Instead, the film lingers on the war period and the Bletchley years, where it’s most comfortable as an ensemble, getting-the-team together drama. Director Morten Tyldum (‘Headhunters’) and writer Graham Moore sketch out Turing’s initial conflicts with his Bletchley colleagues (led by Matthew Goode, with Charles Dance and Mark Strong playing the bosses) and his friendship with fellow codebreaker Joan Clarke (nicely underplayed by Keira Knightley), who was briefly his fiancée. But perhaps the most moving, enlightening and sweetly played scenes are of Turing’s schooldays when we see a young Turing (played with tenderness by the excellent Alex Lawther), fragile, stuttering and in love with a fellow pupil. Less delicate is a later scene where Turing is effectively presented as being in love with his big, awkward proto-computer – named Christopher after his schoolboy romance.

You won’t need anything like Turing’s powers of detection to understand what the energetic, respectable ‘The Imitation Game’ has to offer. Its various riffs on codes, whether moral, sexual, societal or German, are plain to see rather than enigmatic or enlightening. Luckily it’s all anchored in a storming performance from Cumberbatch: you’ll be deciphering his work long after the credits roll.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday November 14 2014
Duration: 114 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Morten Tyldum
Screenwriter: Graham Moore
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch
Keira Knightley
Matthew Goode

Average User Rating

3.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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critique _
1 of 1 found helpful

Absorbing drama. The two actors playing Turing (Cumberbatch and newcomer Alex Lawther) are exceptional.

Kate J
1 of 1 found helpful

The story of Alan Turing, an unappreciated but brilliant man is definitely well worth seeing. The story-lines and timelines integrate throughout the film and although Alan was definitely not an easy guy to love, or to like even, Benedict Cumberbatch portrays him with an intensity and a depth of emotion that compels you to feel for him and you find yourself willing his co-stars to trust him, believe in him and forgive him his awkwardness. The ultimate heartbreaking end of his life, where he is forced to choose between prison and hormonal therapy to 'cure' his homosexuality (what would you choose?!) kills him when he's only 41. As Alan says at one point, we each like different sets of things, think different thoughts; to be different is normal, not a reason to punish, inflict pain or bully. 

We do have computers, internet, phones and tablets that Alan could only dream of but nevertheless, we still have plenty to learn about how to be better at being humans.

Oh and the score by Alexandre Desplat is simply gorgeous (just like Matthew Goode)

Charly L

Beautiful, powerful and incredibly thought-provoking.  An incredible film, which any Brit, living in liberal, accepting 2015 needs to watch to appreciate the sacrifices made by others in living memory.

David G

A poor effort indeed.The film is made with Hollywood money,and it shows.This film makes Turing's life into one long comedy sketch,even turning him into a buffoon.Cumberbatch over acts his role and Knightly is wooden and one dimensional..The dialogue is trite and laughable.It is essential a rom com made through tinted camera lenses to give a warm soft focus to the film.The whole thing feels contrived and superficial.

Rebecca P

The Imitation Game is a perfectly watchable film due to its fascinating protagonist and the performance by Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing alone. The narrative explores three significant stories in Turing’s life, ranging from his first childhood love to his role cracking the Enigma machine and finally his exposure as a homosexual in the years following World War II. The facts aren’t all historically accurate and the melodrama occasionally detracts from the plot, however- there is a lack of information about his life as a prodigious Cambridge fellow and his work before his time at Bletchley Park , for instance. There is also a sense that the portrayal of Turing as a mathematical genius is disingenuous and hackneyed, as he demonstrates a social ineptitude and emotional apathy that implies that he had Asperger Syndrome. There are theories that suggest this was possible, but it completely permeates the characterisation of Turing in the film.

Despite these narrative flaws and clunky characterisation, the performances in the film are strong and Alan Turing is such a fascinating and tragic historical figure that this film is an interesting and gripping watch. You just wish it had done Turing a bit more justice for his unbelievable achievements.


Benedict Cumberbatch turns in a storming performance as the autistic and homosexual genius Alan Turing, a man whose brilliance in breaking the code of the "unbreakable" Enigma machine used by the Germans in WWII, for a while outweighs the social taboo of other facets of his identity. Cumberbatch is baffling, unlikeable and at the same time, infinitely touching in his portrayal of a man who could only mimic but never achieve normality. As his erstwhile fiance, Keira Knightly also turns in a surprisingly deft performance and gives voice to the film's catchphrase "Sometimes it's the people that no-one imagines anything of ; who do the things that no one imagines". Turing's suffering at school and his subsequent hounding for being homosexual cast a sombre light on most of his life but the message is still an inspiring one - that to be odd can be extra-ordinary and in this case, Cumberbatch is both.

Lise M

Historically inaccurate, with a plodding plot and mediocre acting, it must be the most overrated film of the year. Turing deserved better than, not to mention his colleagues who hardly get any recognition. The film uses all the clichés about the lone genius and Cumberbatch usual mannerism makes it even harder to believe in the character he is portraying.