The Imitation Game
Awards buzz circled this entertaining account of Enigma code-breaker Alan Turing long before its debut at the traditionally Oscar-foreshadowing Toronto Film Festival, and it’s easy to see why. All the standard thematic ingredients are in place for a night of success come February, but another trait the Academy so adore is what prevents Morten Tyldum’s film from greatness, and that’s just how frustratingly conventional and superficial it is.
There’s a real biopic-by-numbers feel, from the framing device of Turing explaining his tale to police just before his tragic suicide, to the initial conflict and then grudging acceptance by his colleagues at Bletchley Park, through the scepticism at and ultimate vindication of his methods, and some other cliches in between. Cumberbatch is fine as Turing (a slightly less charming version of his Sherlock). Knightley is fine as his plucky companion Joan. Goode is fine as their caddish, quasi-antagonist Hugh. And Tyldum ties it all together with such steadfast dedication to fine-ness that makes it very difficult to be cross with his film. But this is one of the most important, most defining moments of history, and Turing one of the most fascinating, complex and downright difficult figures at its core; a period and character one would hope demand a bit more artistic flair, and a bit more insight, than this delivers. Perfectly decent... but that's the problem.