A must see film, with a brilliant cast. However, Benedict Cumberbatch really steals the show in his portrayal of Alan Turing, and not just because he plays the protagonist. The mathematician, code breaker and pioneer of computer science was known for being highly eccentric and Cumberbatch presents us with a character who is exactly that. Cumberbatch perfectly masters his socially awkward yet endearing nature with a childlike innocence – “Mother says I can be off-putting sometimes”.
It is the flashbacks to Turing’s childhood and school days in the 1920s that makes the film so moving, as we see him lose the one friendship verging on romance, with Christopher Morcom, that he had as a child. He later names his code breaking machine after him as it is Christopher who introduces Alan to cryptography, initiating his passion. Alex Lawther plays the young Turing with such sensitivity that we empathise with the older Turing despite his abruptness and rudeness.
The film is extremely sombre and touching at times. We see footage from the war and scenes of destruction and poverty interspersed with the main narrative. However, in spite of his childhood, the extreme prejudice against homosexuals and Turing’s enforced chemical castration towards the end of his life, the film does provide some comic relief stemming from Turing’s social awkwardness. For example, when he brings his fellow code-breakers apples and consequently tells a poorly executed joke in an attempt to create some sort of rapport with them after a rather hasty start on his behalf. Or, when he is completely oblivious to Hugh’s attempts to woo Joan’s friend and unknowingly contradicts Hugh, despite being not so subtly kicked under the table by both Hugh and Joan, Turing’s fiancé.
The relationship between Turing and Joan is extremely tender: “we’re not like other people, we love each other in our own way.” Knightley seems thankfully to be a lot less wooden in this film as she injects a sense of youthful energy, complimenting Turing’s more serious nature.
The Imitation Game is a poignant and faithful depiction of a remarkable man’s life.