The Imitation Game Review

4 Jan

Alan Turing’s story is one that definitely should be told, but it’s one that should be told through an actual movie, not through a collection of meandering scenes that happen to be next to each other. The Imitation Game wants you to be moved, to be fascinated, to be able to learn something about Turing, but the problem is that the movie doesn’t know how to go about it. It attempts to tie everything together thematically, but its version of doing so consists of the “hammering the message over your head until you have no choice but to give it an Oscar” method.

It’s a shame, really, considering Turing is a fascinating person to delve into. In the movie, he comes across as yet another exaggerated, socially awkward genius, and by the time the filmmakers realize that Turing was much more than a cliche, we’ve already moved onto some random, superfluous plot point. Don’t worry, though, because if you didn’t get the message, Turing was not normal, and he did things that were not normal. It’s a flimsy thesis, but with interesting characters, I’m willing to cut the movie a little slack.

Unfortunately, the movie’s definition of “interesting” is apparently “dull”. It’s a fantastic cast, what with people like Matthew Goode and Charles Dance and more showing up, but not one supporting character is fleshed out much. Goode’s Hugh Alexander, for example, solely exists so that some tension can be manufactured between him and Turing, and when the movie wants to move away from that and create a “Rah rah, we’re a team!” mood, it does so without paying any attention to character development. As a whole, the movie is extremely disjointed, and the characters move around aimlessly within three timelines until they’re needed for exposition or for the next big, dramatic scene. Nothing ever gels, and nothing really sticks with you as a result.

I do appreciate, however, the fact that the movie addresses the ethical dilemmas surrounding Enigma, especially after it’s broken. The characters are asked to measure the lives of some against the lives of many, and although these ideas aren’t given nearly as much screen time as they should’ve been given, they’re still there. Ultimately, though, it’s an empty movie, and while Cumberbatch tries his hardest to elevate the script, his performance is still considerably weakened because of the mediocre writing. The movie plods its way through a laundry list of things it wants to touch on, and for such an interesting and tragic story, it’s hard to believe that this is what results. But hey, anything’s possible; if Enigma can be solved, then a bad movie certainly can be made. The difference between the two is that the former seemed to at least involve some passion, heart, and intelligence.



-Keira Knightley is fine in this, but again, the characterization is weak. Charles Dance is always great for some banter, though, and the scenes between him and Cumberbatch are some of the few sharply written scenes in the movie.

-On Turing’s homosexuality: on one side, you have the “it doesn’t define him in the movie” argument, which certainly is the case. On the other hand, you have the “it’s downplayed” argument, which also is the case because let’s face it: the Weinsteins don’t want to offend any voters. I’d argue that it has more influence on the story than people are giving it credit for, but the controversy here is indicative of a larger problem regarding the story as a whole. Simply put, the movie doesn’t thoroughly engage with the character beyond the normal cliches, and that’s disappointing.

-Here are some interesting articles about the historical inaccuracies in the movie:

Normally, I’d be fine with some inaccuracies, but I feel like these inaccuracies are significantly detrimental to the movie.

-Kudos to Alex Lawther as young Turing. He’s just as good as Cumberbatch is.

Photo credit: The Weinstein Company, The Imitation Game


26 Responses to “The Imitation Game Review”

  1. aguywithoutboxers January 4, 2015 at 10:46 pm #

    Thanks for the review. I have always been fascinated about Turing’s story and was considering seeing this film in the theater. After your commentary, I think I’ll wait until it’s shown on late night cable. I appreciate you sparing me the disappointment. 🙂

    • polarbears16 January 4, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

      No problem! Don’t let me stop you, though! My opinion is definitely a minority opinion, and I think any fan of Turing’s story can find something to like about this movie.

      • aguywithoutboxers January 4, 2015 at 10:53 pm #

        I trust you more than the screenwriters. If I’m to be frustrated, I’d prefer it to be for free rather tha exorbitant admission fees! Much love and naked hugs! 🙂

      • polarbears16 January 4, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

        True, true. Those prices are really high. If only all movies in the theater were free…we would be living in a fantasy world.

  2. MuviET January 5, 2015 at 12:15 am #

    Thanx for Liking! I haven’t seen the movie, but it looked interesting on the trailer. I’ll wait for it on Netflix or something. I’m not familiar with the character, but that’s ususally what happens when they get the Hollywood treatment. They’re not entirely accurate.

    • polarbears16 January 5, 2015 at 7:06 am #

      Yeah, I was definitely expecting that going in. After reading up on the story, though, I don’t know, I felt like I could connect some of those inaccuracies to its flaws as a movie. Usually that doesn’t happen, as I don’t let those impact my take on a historical movie, but maybe this was a special case. Thanks for commenting!

  3. #peggyatthemovies January 5, 2015 at 12:59 am #

    As much as you know this review hurts’s still a well-written and thought out one! 😀 You know I loved the film..twice I loved it!! And I know for a fact it has some historical inaccuracies as most of all the biopics out there do..wait till you see Selma..but for me it was still so well acted and a lovely story..and least you stayed for the whole film!!! kudos for that!!

    • polarbears16 January 5, 2015 at 7:09 am #

      Haha yes, normally I don’t let historical inaccuracies bother me, but for this one, for some reason they did. Hope to see Selma soon, maybe next week, but it’ll maybe have to wait until after Inherent Vice and American Sniper.

  4. Cindy Bruchman January 5, 2015 at 4:45 am #

    Nice review–heard many positives about this film and your disappointments are thoughts to consider. I’m sure I’ll see it–maybe not until it’s a rental.

  5. JustMeMike January 5, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    Intriguing review –

    I saw this one at the Mill Valley Film Festival back in early October. I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

    As for your statement about the inaccuracies – I am hoping for a bit more in the way of the clarification. When I saw the film, I knew not anything about Turing or the work done at Bletchley Park. So even if the film had been wildly inaccurate – I wouldn’t have known.

    So my question to you is this -did you read up on Turing,Enigma, Bletchley Park etc before or after seeing the film? I’m sure you have like most of us seen many bio films, or films about true historical events. I’m just as sure that you said to your self that this is an movie and entertainment. Surely artistic license has been taken here and there, and just as surely some characters may very well be composites or creations.

    But in this case, you’ve gone beyond accepting the film at face value, and written a criticism based upon further readings. Hence my question.

    From another perspective, your review was totally on point about the lack of depth, and the meandering aspect.

    • polarbears16 January 5, 2015 at 6:21 pm #

      Before the movie, I knew the general story behind it all, but anything I read wasn’t specifically because I knew the movie was coming out. Around when the film was getting buzz, I’d heard grumblings about certain inaccuracies, but I didn’t delve into it too much.

      After seeing it, though, I was disappointed by the weak and cliched characterization, so I wanted to read up on Turing to see exactly what kind of creative license was taken. Normally, yes, it wouldn’t bother me because it’s entertainment, but given certain decisions, it seemed like the filmmakers were attempting to make the character fit their mold rather than letting the character’s life speak for itself. And I think as a result, the film took a hit. Yes, the filmmakers get to have a certain amount of creative license, but I believe it impacted the characterization quite a bit. I’m hesitant to call the movie “safe”, but as I said above, I don’t think they thoroughly engaged with the character. Just my two cents.

      • JustMeMike January 5, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

        Well said.

        For the record, I asked my question because I believed the ‘when’ of your readings was of interest.


  6. Hepburn3 January 5, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    I have no desire to see this film. I like Benedict Cumberbatch but I do not have the screaming thigh sweats that a lot of women who fawn over him and his work do. He is a decent actor but in truth I never remember his performances. For example he was in Small Island, and I only realized this when I re watched it, he plays Sherlock Holmes but I cannot abide his version of the super deluxe Aspergers consulting detective, who just comes across as a selfish misogynistic jagweed ( I prefer Johnny Lee Miller’s emotionally evolved but brilliant and struggling nuanced version of Sherlock). He of course was Smaug but that was just decent ,I should hope that he could not jack up or make a dragon boring, his version of Kahn was just lame and boring, but i am interested in seeing on dvd his voice role of the super spy wolf Classified in the latest Penguins of Madagascar film, because I want to see if he has comedic timing and because I love those penguins. 🙂
    Alan Turing was and is a fascinating person, I remember learning about him in university from my friends who were studying higher maths and computer language, and also I remember watching a really nifty Masterpiece Theatre film about Turing staring Derek Jacobi called Breaking the Code, now that was well done and acted and showed the many complex sides of Turing without the emotional cliches and tropes. Now that is a good film and the better Turing tale.
    Every time I see the ads for this film they peeve me and now they are just blended into that film about Steven Hawking that is also being pushed for BAFTAS and Oscars. I bet if you could splice the two films together and it they would both be better for it. So full of those really maudlin and shiny special moments and epiphanies that people like to think actually happen like that in real life.
    Thanks as always for you review and take. They are always insightful and provoke thought from me. 🙂

    • polarbears16 January 5, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

      Yeah, Eggs Benedict hasn’t impressed me much with his work. His performance as Alan Turing is good, but far from great.

      I’m completely with you on Turing being fascinating, and your desire not to see the film is in line with my opinions on it even after seeing it. I’m glad the story is getting attention, but the production companies definitely care more about the story leading to awards than the story standing as a story.

      • Hepburn3 January 5, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

        Eggs Benedict… 😉
        I remember once that I ‘offended’ a female friend who is totally enamoured with Benedict by calling him Benedict Thundercat, it was only in truth because I could not at the time put proper tongue to his name. 🙂
        I like my stage name for him better. Thundercat HO!! 😉
        Yes I can be rather inane.

        What I am stoked for tv wise?
        More New Girl, Blackish, the new season of Its always sunny in Philly, Game of Thrones, I am having good fun with Galavant,( I am enjoying the light silliness of it) Sleepy Hollow, Agent Carter, The Flash, Gotham, Justified, Constantine, Orphan Black and hopefully Mr. Selfridge.
        Oh and I want to scope out The Librarians but I have not made time to do so as yet. 🙂

      • polarbears16 January 5, 2015 at 6:43 pm #

        I’m excited for New Girl, Justified, Orphan Black, and Sunny as well! I’ll also add things like Archer and The Americans and Shameless.

        Sleepy Hollow I got behind on and never caught up with. I’ve heard it’s not as good now; what do you think? Worth catching up on?

        Also haven’t found time for The Flash yet.

      • polarbears16 January 5, 2015 at 6:43 pm #

        Oh, and Banshee on Cinemax too. And Hannibal in the spring.

      • Hepburn3 January 5, 2015 at 6:52 pm #

        Yes Archer as well. I love Archer!
        I tried Shameless the British and American versions but I just loath everyone on that show character wise. I find if there is nothing I can like or care about them then I cannot abide.
        I started to watch the Americans but got out of the habit of watching it, I liked it though.
        Sleepy Hollow lost its way for a tad but it is coming back to its path of nifty again. I like that Sleep Hollow is easy to watch, fun and a tad different from other female and male buddy/partner shows. I would dvd binge watch it if you feel so inclined. 🙂

  7. Hepburn3 January 5, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

    On in a closing P.S. to my comment which has nothing to do with the subject at hand but must be said!

    • polarbears16 January 5, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

      Yes!!! Very excited! What other shows are you excited for this midseason? There are a ton.

  8. TheMovieReviewDude January 5, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

    Disappointing to hear about the film, but what about Cumberpatch? Is he as good as the critics say?

    • polarbears16 January 5, 2015 at 6:10 pm #

      He’s alright. I don’t think he’s as good as the critics say, but that’s more the fault of the script than him.

  9. Emily January 5, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    I appreciate your liking my own review of the film, especially considering we have basically opposite views on it. And I did enjoy reading yours, however, I really cannot see many of your assessments in the film itself. I found each scene of the movie to be well connected and saw Turing portrayed as a complex character from the beginning, but to each his own.
    As for the historical inaccuracies, I don’t think they hurt the film, but that may be because I enjoyed it so much. I do wish the film had depicted Tommy Flowers, considering the two did meet and Flowers is largely forgotten today by the general public (similar to Turing, actually). I think the film was truthful enough in it’s portrayals.

  10. lrmvngpct January 9, 2015 at 9:49 am #

    I did enjoy this film, and I found it very moving, but I completely agree with you that it did seem to be screaming “give me an Oscar” the entire way through. I always struggle with these types of films on weather I enjoyed learning about an interesting story or enjoyed watching a good film… I think this time the story was better than the film.

  11. David Smith November 30, 2016 at 8:58 am #

    I thought this movie was much better than a C grade. The heavy handed Christian bash with the bible thrown in as the method of espionage was ridiculous (and didn’t really happen) and by the end of the movie you would think Alan couldn’t have broken Enigma if he were straight, but it’s a great story about winning the war and it was wonderfully acted!

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