Words by Matt Poe

“The Imitation Game” (2014)

Netflix Star Rating: ★★★★★
Poe’s Star Rating: ★★★★½☆ (enigma, oh the enigma!)

A mathematician and his colleagues work tirelessly to crack the Enigma code and bring an end to World War II. However, his personal demons may prove more challenging than the largest destruction in history.

Category: Drama, Biographical

Rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley and Mark Strong

Written by Graham Moore and Andrew Hodges (book). Directed by Morten Tyldum

Welcome back to another edition of Poe’s Picks. Dear readers, it is at this point of the semester where I am happy to announce that my brain is in its embryonic stages of turning into mush. The midway point of the semester has begun to take its toll and believe me, it’s taken better men than myself. That being said, I cannot let you down.

In fact, at times like this we come together and realize how important a healthy dose of Netflix and this blog can be; a detox of sorts from the chaos of everyday life. So as I lie in this bed with my nightcap on, candlelight illuminating next to me and my days drawing to a close, I will do all in my power to get this blog to you. It is my life’s work because … ENOUGH ALREADY, GET ON WITH IT. OK you’re right. Blog time!

“The Imitation Game” is a beautifully produced movie. It has temporarily restored my faith in recent filmmaking. But more on that later. Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant, English mathematician during the mid-20th century. I’m not sure if any of you are aware, but a minor event broke out during the late 1930s when a crazy guy with a horrendous mustache went all medieval on everyone.

World War II plunges Europe into darkness and Britain is under siege from relentless bombings and attacks. Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong), a high ranking official in Britain’s intelligence agency known as MI6, attempts to recruit Her Majesty’s top minds to help the Allies end the war.

The Imitation Game
Photo Courtesy of IMDB.

How? To crack the German’s nearly impossible Enigma code, a form of secret messages used by the Axis Powers to send cryptic messages for strategic purposes. The code resets itself every night at midnight, giving Turing and his small team just several hours a day to decipher billions of different code combinations. I know, math gives me a headache, too. This movie, however, did not.

It’s beautifully shot and the historical sets are tremendous, along with all the costumes depicting 1940s Britain. The film also jumps around nicely with flashbacks of Turing as a teenager in preparatory school and also flashes forward to post-war Europe where we see what life after the war was like for Turing and the rest of the crew who fought the Enigma. The movie is also, essentially, a character study of Turing.

Cumberbatch plays the role damned-near perfect. Turing was a complex man who struggled throughout his life to make social connections. Cumberbatch exudes a wide range of emotions to capture the fascinating man that was Turing. He was nominated for the best actor Oscar for his performance in the film and you can certainly see why.

It’s his show and by God does he command it. Keira Knightley (the woman is flat out stunning) is poignant as Joan Clarke, a brilliant mathematician who was overlooked by many simply because she was, well, a woman. Her friendship with Turing is touching and in another life, the two would have been perfect for one another.

Turing was undoubtedly homosexual and it’s one of the major themes of the film. In a time when it was against the law to be gay, Turing had great difficulty accepting who he was and simultaneously trying to keep his sexuality a secret. The film does a great job of showing the importance of Turing’s sexuality, but never becoming preachy about it; he was simply a man who was tormented by genius and a major taboo at the time.

I said earlier that this film reinstated some of my belief in current movies. I cannot stand that almost every major Hollywood movie these days is a sequel, remake or dumbed down to the nth degree. “The Imitation Game” is the complete opposite. It’s a movie about smart people, made by smart people for people who want to learn and be entertained.

Make no mistake, this movie is not some boring history lesson designed to dull you. It’s a brilliant character study about a brilliant man who did brilliant things. BRILLIANT. A man as impactful as Turing deserves to be known for all he accomplished. Now if you’ll excuse me, some of the aforementioned mush is leaking out of my ear and I need to get a bucket.

Until next time.

In Good Films We Trust,

Matt “Roger Ebert wishes he was half the film critic I am” Poe