I don’t like Benedict Cumberbatch’s face. His name alone induces yawns of boredom.

After looking at his IMDb page, I’ve mostly avoided his movies aside from limited roles in Four Lions, 12 Years a Slave, and the voice of Smaug in The Hobbit. Clearly, Cumberbatch is talented, but he hasn’t found the appropriate leading vehicle. Until now with a perfectly suited starring role in The Imitation Game.

Cumberbatch makes this movie compelling with his performance as Alan Turing, a British cryptanalyst tasked with breaking Nazi Germany’s infamous Enigma code. Cumberbatch’s presence is felt in every scene even though his character isn’t the loud, audacious type. Essentially, Alan Turing is played as a troubled genius with extreme social issues. Michael Fassbender is the only other actor I can imagine pulling off this captivating performance to make a rather bland biopic spy thriller story tolerable.

In an attempt to inflate the degree of story-telling difficulty, director Morten Tyldum juggles three separate timelines in The Imitation Game. In 1951, police are investigating a break-in at Alan Turing’s home and he starts to discuss his work in the military during World War II. In 1927, a young Alan Turing is being relentlessly bullied at boarding school and his only friend is a classmate named Christopher. In 1939, the heart of the movie focuses on Turing’s involvement in Britain’s effort to decrypt the Enigma code.

Top Secret Team

Traveling through these different decades is an interesting decision, but it’s an odd self-imposed obstacle that doesn’t always work. The aesthetic choice to leave Cumberbatch’s appearance basically unchanged from 1939 to 1951 is bewildering. A little old age make-up would have done wonders to clarify the time period because it’s not always immediately clear, which becomes increasingly distracting.

The most egregious aspect of this movie is how much it is in love with its own writing. The following line is repeated three times by different characters: “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” Each time it comes off as sentimental mugging for the camera. You don’t need to insult the audience by telling people how to feel—particularly with an annoying score.

Despite fumbling a few parts, The Imitation Game is a well-crafted movie that whisks by for an hour before the train starts losing momentum. In my opinion, the train completely breaks down and dies on the tracks during the plodding third act. The Imitation Game isn’t a great movie, but it’s not bad either.

Keira Knightley

Unfortunately, there’s not much to this movie except for Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance—which is critical since you’re with his character in every scene. The supporting cast has some good actors with Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Mark Strong, and Charles Dance. But these talented people are largely wasted because their characters are rather unimportant without any memorable moments.

The Imitation Game will not win Best Picture at this weekend’s Oscars, but I’m not outraged at its nomination. However, the award campaign’s attempt to capitalize off of Turing’s sexuality appears in poor taste since the movie itself isn’t oriented around gay rights. There’s no need to run away from The Imitation Game, but it’s an interesting movie that I will never watch again.


3 out of 5 stars

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