The Imitation Game Tries Too Hard to Be a Good Movie, Ends Up Just Okay

Brilliant mathematician and logician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) works with a team of code-breakers for the British government during World War II in hopes of intercepting Nazi communications through Germany’s infamous Enigma code.

When I say The Imitation Game tries too hard to be a good film, it’s not because it’s bad. In fact, it has solid performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, and Charles Dance. It’s about defeating the Nazis, and everybody loves a good Nazi-defeat story (Seriously, is WWII its own film genre yet?). And, of course, there are several social issues up for discussion, including ethics in wartime, bureaucracy, and homosexuality. But this movie falls prey to the “Jack of All Trades but Master of None” problem.

That’s typical with Oscar-bait films. So few are actually spectacular in all aspects of film, you know? Screenplay, direction, acting, effects, design, music—when they nail everything, they truly stand out from the other films they’re up against. The Imitation Game just doesn’t. It feels like every other historical figure-centered story about a genius struggling with his/her work and various external oppression. And we can’t even credit the intrigue of the plot to the movie because it had Alan Turing’s complicated, fascinating life as its guide. Not to mention, it tried to tell Turing’s WWII story, as well as his struggles with his sexuality, and ended up castrating both due to film time.

Also, the movie spent more time drawing parallels between the Enigma code and Turing’s inability to understand and relate to the people around him for some lighthearted humor when it could’ve been pointing out serious contradictions—like Turing helping the British government defeat a dictator who persecuted people for being different just to have that same government turn around and persecute him for being different. I find that one hard to miss…

Personally, I find it ridiculous that this movie’s being commended for anything beyond Benedict Cumberbatch’s amazing performance (and arguably Keira Knightley’s supporting performance). It’s not Best Picture material by any means. I mean, shit, the movie ends with a series of onscreen text detailing what happened after the events of the movie over a scene of the code-breakers joyously burning their secret work. CAPTIONS. This is novice filmmaking.

Why in the world would a visual storyteller choose to use f***ing captions to tell us about Turing’s suicide (after being forced into hormonal therapy for his homosexuality) then say, I don’t know, showing him preparing the cyanide apple he used to kill himself? Using that as the movie’s ending instead of the “Here’s some pandering historical catch-up” packs a bit more of a punch when trying to tell the complex story of a genius who was harassed later in life for being gay despite saving millions upon millions of lives.

Like I said, the movie is okay. It’s much better than a lot of the crap that gets released nowadays. I just think movies contending for the highest film awards should be smarter and willing to push people to talk (or at least think) about uncomfortable social issues, especially those from our past that are still relevant today.

Overall, The Imitation Game gets a noteworthy performance out of Benedict Cumberbatch as socially-awkward scientist Alan Turing, but it offers little beyond Cumberbatch’s acting. Sure, the stories of Turing and how the British government cracked the Nazi code are interesting, but the movie is too focused on baiting awards that it fails to dig deeper into the social issues it just barely brings up. If we want to be cheesy, I guess we could say it “imitates” a good movie.

The Imitation Game: B+

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