During World War II the German used an encryption device for all communications. This machine was used to convert every message into gobbledygook and then this gobbledygook was converted to Morse code and transmitted. On the other end of the communication there was another similar encrypting machine which then decrypted this message. These machines were called Enigmas and based on the wire/plug settings and the rotor positions the machine could be configured in 159 million million million different combinations thus making the decryption of the messages impossible for anyone who doesn’t practically know the settings. This was the single most important device which was literally winning the war for Germany as all their communications were practically impenetrable.
Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a celebrated mathematician who was recruited into a team of highly skilled individuals responsible for breaking the enigma code. However within months of his recruitment, he realizes that the only thing that can beat the Enigma is another machine that can think and act as fast as no human can. So he sets about to create his machine which he affectionately calls “Christopher”. Turing comes up against stiff competition and rejection from his own team members until Churchill makes him the commander of the team for breaking the Enigma. His own ways also doesn’t make life any easier. He finds an able foil in Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). She is the only person that he can connect with and it’s only a matter of time before he proposes marriage to her and she agrees.
Simple as it may seem, Turing soon realizes that he can never be the husband that she wants as he is homosexual in nature. That’s one secret which he guards all the way through the war but post the war, his secret comes out during a robbery at his house which breaks open the secrets behind the decryption of the enigma which also happens to be the one of the primary reason for the allied victory in the war. Soon the detectives and the judges have to make a choice between whether to let Turing walk free for the services that he had rendered during the war or chemically castrate him and rid him off the naughty hormones.
The Imitation Game beautifully builds up starting with the burglary at Turing’s house and then taking us to the flash back to see Turing’s exploits in the war. The narrative moves at a leisurely pace until the team cracks the Enigma code after which the screenplay gathers some speed. But one has to be honest with the fact that this is not exactly a fast paced thriller. This film will fall more into the temperamental drama genre. The only little blemish is with the fact that everytime we watch the burglary investigation at Turing’s place we want to fast forward the whole track and get back to the World War bit because that’s where the whole meat is.
This is one film which might not have been the same without the sterling performance of Cumberbatch. He has literally nailed it like no one else could. The frustration, the anxiety, the pain and the happiness is all visible as he goes through the life of one of the most amazing mathematicians of our times. The title suggests not only the machine that he was building to decode and imitate the enigma but also his own personality and conduct which he imitates from the lot who are straight and legal. He imitates the straight men to survive in a hostile world for the gay. Therein also lies the heart of the film.
Keira Knightley is sublime as Joan Clarke and supports Cumberbatch scene for scene. She has a meaty role which she does utter justice to. The film also serves as a war thriller with actually not even a single shot being fired. This film shows how the war was practically won by a few crossword puzzle enthusiasts. Mark Strong plays the role of an MI6 agent to the perfection. He is probably the only one who knows all of Alan’s secrets and yet also learns to value him for what he is capable of doing which includes deciding the fate of others.
The Imitation Game is a wonderfully directed film. The cinematography, the editing and the background score are in perfect sync with its mood and settings compounding the effect of the narrative as well as letting Cumberbatch seamlessly take over your senses. The final sequence between him and Keira Knightley is alone worth the price of admission. I say this because of the simplicity in their act. It just doesn’t feel like acting. The acting which is not acting is cinematic magic and that’s what the two of them conjure up within themselves.
The Imitation Game is one of the fore-runners for the Oscars and after sitting through this film I can imagine why. Power packed performances, superb story, edge of the seat thrills and a lot of heart are just some of the reasons that make this film an utterly loveable watch. Irrespective of who the Oscars go to this year, Cumberbatch and The Imitation Game will forever remain etched in the minds of the viewers. For the cine-holics, every time the word “enigma” is uttered, The Imitation Game will be remembered and everytime the word Cumberbatch will be whispered, the term enigma would be tagged in.