Granger on Movies: 'The Imitation Game'
As the Luftwaffe bombed London and German U-boats were sinking ships in the Atlantic, brilliant but troubled Alan Turing, was recruited to join five other mathematicians in Hut 8 of the undercover facility at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire to try to crack the Nazis' complex military code which defied decryption by changing every night at midnight.
Awkwardly anti-social, Turing's blunt, condescending rudeness immediately alienates Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance) and his colleagues (Matthew Goode, Allen Leech and Matthew Beard). Nevertheless, he builds digital "thinking" device, an artificial intelligence that's obviously an early computer, with the help of Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), the only woman judged bright enough to associate with the code breakers.
That leads to a conundrum, as outlined by MI6's shadowy Major Gen. Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong): Enigma must remain top-secret because if the Allies thwart too many German attacks, the enemy will become suspicious and adopt another code.
Based on Andrew Hodges' 1983 biography of Alan Turing, screenwriter Graham Moore begins the character study in 1951, when Turing was charged with "gross indecency," a British euphemism for homosexuality. Within this framing device, Moore calculatedly inserts insightful flashbacks showing how Turing was bullied during his formative school years and traces his burgeoning friendship with an understanding schoolmate who introduced him to cryptograms.
Norwegian director Morten Tyldum ("Headhunters") steadfastly struggles to maintain suspense, introducing a subplot about a spy possibly infiltrating the team, and then tying the plot strands together with a tragically shocking conclusion.
Benedict Cumberbatch has already proven his versatility, embodying TV's Sherlock Holmes, Australian anarchist Julian Assange in "The Fifth Estate," and the slow-witted son in "August: Osage County." Here, he exudes a compelling arrogance that adroitly masks his wounded vulnerability
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Imitation Game" is an engrossing, if emotionally evasive 8, featuring Cumberbatch's exceptional performance.
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