Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game was serious Awards bait. It may be based on a true story but Graham Moore’s calculated screenplay tries very hard to tick every box to be a worthy contender during the awards season. This makes the film rote and predictable, cramming-in too much story and not enough emotion. This is superficial cinema, made to swell the hearts of the middle classes and make them proud to be British. And if you’re not British, then it’ll make you proud to be forward thinking on the right side of history.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the tortured maths genius who cracked the German Enigma code during World War II. Turing is seen as an oddball to his peers (Keira Knightly, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech) and a pain to his superiors (Mark Strong and Charles Dance) but his genius is never in doubt. However, Turning also has a secret – he’s gay, something that was illegal in Britain until 1967.
Don’t get me wrong, The Imitation Game isn’t a bad film. It tells an intriguing enough story and the performances are all good – if not particularly outstanding. Cumberbatch and Knightley were given Bafta and Oscar nominations but it’s easy to see why they didn’t win. Cumberbatch gives his Turing an afficted and aloof characterisation but it’s nothing that he isn’t doing on television’s Sherlock. Keira Knightley plays Keira Knightley and both Dance and Strong do their usual (and always welcome) intimidating schtick (I’d much rather watch a spin-off with that duo called The Intimidation Game).
Tyldum’s film looks great and the cinematography of Óscar Faura gives the film a rich texture, like the brown and faded pages of an old photo album. Alexandre Desplat’s score helps to give the film a superficial emotion which is lacking within Graham Moore’s script. It’s a credit to the man that he managed to compose the score for this film and Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel in the same year.
A success at the box office and praised by the critics, The Imitation Game surely has a lot of fans. However, I get the feeling that the love for this film will be fleeting – this won’t have the longevity to be on anyone’s ‘best of’ lists in years to come. Graham Moore’s screenplay should have focused on one aspect of Turing’s life – either his work on solving the Enigma code or his secret life as a homosexual. Trying to interweave both together in under two hours lacks focus and barely touches the surface of the messages that the filmmakers want to get across. This isn’t challenging – it’s awards filmmaking by numbers.
The blu-ray of The Imitation Game comes with plenty of behind the scenes material that perfectly complements Morten Tyldum’s film. You also get deleted scenes and a commentary – the perfect package for a so-so film.