I do not understand the appeal of Benedict Cumberbatch. He is a great actor with a memorable voice, but how he came to be a sex symbol, I will never know. I suppose that is why his films become as popular as they do, regardless of how bad they are. In my opinion, Star Trek Into Darkness was only watchable because of Cumberbatch as Khan, and the best part of the Hobbit movies was Smaug. It will be interesting to see what he does with the character of Steven Strange in the coming years. So is The Imitation Game just another bad movie made better because of Cumberbatch, or is it genuinely good?
It is not often we see the British side of WWII in film, or at least I have not. From a historical standpoint, we know they were entrenched in an air war that left many civilians displaced in and around London. What we overlook is how desperate the situation truly was. Britain became the sole target of the Nazis, an army of unmatched industrial efficiency and technology. They had rockets, superior numbers, and enough fanatical insanity to over-use it.
The only way Britain survived was a stalwart resolve and those little advances in technology that turned the tide. Imitation Game is about one of those advances. But rather than focus on the creation of a decryption computer, the story is about the man who made it.
Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, a brilliant yet awkward mathematician, and secret homosexual. After the start of WWII he is hired by British Intelligence to crack the Enigma code used by the Nazis. Turing must master his faults in order to work with a team of other geniuses if they want to bring a swift end to the war.
In many ways, Imitation Game is similar to Unbroken, but unlike the latter, there is a consistent effort to flesh out the main character of former, as well as the supporting cast. We learn everything about Turing from flashbacks to his past and future, and the way he carries himself, thanks to a fantastic performance from Cumberbatch. Everything is implied in Unbroken; we are meant to assume what Louie Zamperini is like as a character based on very little direct information. Both ways work, but Imitation Game gave us more of a reason to care about Turing because we learn so much about him.
Furthermore, the lesson or theme of Imitation Game is a hundred times more potent and meaningful than what Unbroken tried to say. It is about overcoming your faults to persevere against adversity, punctuated by one’s struggle with sexuality, and also gender in the case of Keira Knightley’s character Joan. I find it both relatable and more original in regards to Unbroken. They are basically the same story, but when you make it about a man with a defective personality, and a socially unacceptable sexual orientation (in the period of the film), it makes the eventual perseverance all the more heartfelt and compelling. Unbroken is just your run-of-the-mill inspirational true story with an easy to read and predicable narrative.
Cumberbatch really makes this film. If there were any doubts of his versatility as an actor, they are surely unfounded based on his performance. He is so thorough and subtle in his portrayal of an awkward genius you forget he is an actor playing a part in a film. It is quite a spectacle because you believe every second he is on screen. All I can say more is he deserves an Oscar.
The supporting cast was serviceable for the roles they played, the highlight being Knightley. In my opinion, she was the reason why Cumberbatch was so good because the chemistry punctuated the two character’s struggle with adversity. Her character Joan is brilliant, but she is unable to exploit her abilities because people see her as just a woman. Though not as strong a performance, Knightley did a good enough job as a parallel to Cumberbatch. I think she provided an outlet for those who could not relate to Turing’s awkward behavior. In other words, she was an equalizer.
There is not much wrong with the film and believe me, I have tried to find something. In terms of storytelling and production, everything was serviceable and simple, without being offensive or overdone. The film relied more on performances, but it did not cut corners in everything else.
The only problem I can find is a single plot hole that still annoys me hours after seeing this movie. I am not a genius, but the fact that a handful of mathematicians could not figure out this elementary level problem baffles me. Either this was written for the sake of adding tension, or this actually happened in the events the movie is based on. I refuse to reveal what the plot hole is because you will be screaming at the screen the moment it comes up.
In conclusion, I highly recommend seeing The Imitation Game. If you want an inspirational movie, it is far superior to Unbroken and more relatable, at least in my case. Even if you hate the genre as much as I, you will enjoy this movie based on the because of Cumberbatch alone. As a WWII movie, it provides an interesting perspective from the Intelligence side of the war, and how important they were to the soldiers that did the fighting. But if you are homophobic or misogynist (or both), you will not like this movie, because you are a piece of garbage.