I was skeptical to see The Imitation Game, another film up for this year’s Best Picture Oscar (along with seven other nominations) since the trailer seemed to tell the whole story– it’s World War II, and Britain isn’t doing so well. Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant mathematician, one of a handful secretly assigned to break the code used by Enigma– “the greatest encryption device in all of history,” used by the Germans for all war communications. Everyone claims it’s unbreakable, Alan says that’s not true. The trailer then shows him building a machine, not getting along with his peers, hiring Keira Knightley (er, Joan), his machine being turned off, then his peers defending him, there’s a spy (!), Alan is up to something illegal in the 40’s since he doesn’t like Joan (!)… I assumed I didn’t need to see Game because in two and a half minutes, you feel you’ve seen it all. While the story that unfolds in the film’s full hour and forty-five minutes isn’t any different from the trailer, the additional context makes it much more exciting and, dare I admit, touching.
Jumping between time (before, during, and after the building of the machine), Game has a unique pacing, but it works to its advantage. There is no consistent look to the film– rarely close-ups are used so when they are it’s jarring (and not in a good way), the war scenes appear almost whimsical in execution, and the camerawork occasionally tries too hard, but the story distracts from these things. Alan’s past is revealed in a way that keeps the viewer invested in his story, and guessing when certain facts will be told. Even his personality is unfolded in an interesting order, starting as an arrogant genius and ending as a character I found myself fiercely attached to.
For the majority of the film, Alan is in his late 20’s, and while Cumberbatch, at 32, believably appeared 40 later in the film, I laughed when he introduced himself at 27. Appearance aside, Cumberbatch plays Alan beautifully, with each nuance seemingly natural. Both Cumberbatch and Knightley are up for Academy Awards, but Knightley’s Joan doesn’t stray from the cliche. She’s stubborn and pretty and all we know about her is that she’s smart and has strict parents. Alan and Joan exchange lots of corny lines but their interactions are sweet so I chose to focus on that instead.
I sat behind two men during Game, and one of them chuckled at every single joke in the movie– even ones that weren’t necessarily jokes. At the end he seemed to be wiping tears off his face, and the man next to him turned and sighed, “That was good.” I could continue to write, but the reactions of the first man and the words of the second give a better review of this film than I can. It is good. It’s not the best film you’ll see this year, but… Game is good.