For a second week in a row, Dan and I ventured to the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood to see a movie. The Arclight is quickly becoming our cinema of choice. We love the reserved seats and the little "behind the scenes" extras after the credits, but most of all, we love how the other theatre goers really follow theatre etiquette. The Arclight seems to attract real movie lovers, the type of people who wouldn't dare use their cell phone or chit-chat during the film.
PLOT - The Imitation Game is the story of British Mathematician, Alan Turning. The story is narrated by Turning ( Benedict Cumberbatch) and it starts with him being interrogated by the police in the 1950's. He asks us as the audience and the police officer, not to judge his crimes until we understand his story. We do not learn the nature of his crimes until the end of the movie. The narrative bounces between Turning as an awkward school boy and his adult years working for a top secret government program during the second World War.
As a child, Turning does not fit in and is teased by his classmates at boarding school. It appears that he is on the autism spectrum. He does have one friend, who saves him from bullying and in return, Turning develops a crush on this boy. Before Turning can share his feelings, he learns that the boy will not be returning to school, because he has died.
Turning is a math prodigy and as an adult, his talents lead him an interview with the military. He is put on a team of scientist and linguists who are working to decode the German Naval Enigma Machine. Turning has the idea to create a machine to break Enigma and after writing a bold letter to Winston Churchill explaining his idea, Turning is placed in charge of the team. Turning and his group must work fast to prove to the military that his idea will work or they face having their project shut-down.
Turning develops a strong friendship with a fellow mathematician, Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightly). Her parents are old-fashioned and they don't think that it's proper for her to continue to work as an unmarried woman, so Turning proposes to her. Eventually, it comes out that Turning is not romantically interested in Clarke. Even though their engagement ends, their friendship endures.
Although Turning's machine ends up working and he is credited with saving millions of lives in the war, his accomplishments are marred by a scandal that happens in the 1950's. Turning has been trying to keep his homosexuality a secret and he is caught out when one of the men that he has paid for sex, returns to rob his house. The police figure out that Turning has been engaging in illegal homosexual activities. They give him the option to serve two years in jail or to take hormone pills to decrease his libido. The pills affect his mind and the scandal affects his ability to work. He ended up committing suicide at the age of 42.
LIKE - The Imitation Game was one of my favorite movies of 2014. I was surprised by how much humor was infused in this story that carries such weighty themes. It also has a great deal of suspense, as there is this huge time pressure to decode Enigma, both to save lives in the war and to keep their project from being canceled. Even once they broke the code, there is is huge moral dilemma regarding how to proceed with the German intelligence. I liked the set up with Turning in jail and not knowing the circumstances until the very end. The ending was heartbreaking and it's hard to believe that homosexuality was a crime in the not-to-distant past. Cumberbatch and Knightly give outstanding performances, as do the supporting cast. In particular, I thought Alex Lawther, as the young Turning was excellent.
DISLIKE - The only negative was a tendency towards sentimentality in the writing. There is a phrase that is mentioned three ( maybe more) times in the story about being being different and going on to do great things. I can't remember the exact quote, used once it would have been powerful, but the repetition made it cheesy. Other than that, the film was excellent.
RECOMMEND - Yes!!! This is such a powerful and interesting story that it is a must see. I really hope that it picks up some much deserved awards.