THE IMITATION GAME
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch,
Kiera Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, Mark Strong
Director: Morten Tyldum
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Features: See Review
Length: 114 Minutes
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Do you know how many people have died because of Enigma?
No, I don't.
Three...while we've been having this conversation.
When mathematician Alan Turing was cited for indecency in 1951 after attempting to solicit sex from another man, he was publicly shamed and forced to choose between jail and hormonal therapy in an attempt to cure him. He chose the latter, but ended up committing suicide. He was 41...younger than I am now.
It was a terrible and bitterly ironic ending for an amazingly gifted mind...no one involved in his prosecution knew at the time, but Alan Turing was both the unlikeliest and possibly the greatest of all war heroes in the second World War. Today we know the names of Patton, Eisenhower, MacArthur and others, but while the history books are replete with their achievements, none of them could believably make the claim that they almost single-handedly won that war for the Allies. Alan Turing could.
The Imitation Game is a brilliant film that brings Alan Turing to vivid life, both as a man and a scientist. In any other year without Eddie Redmayne or Michael Keaton, believe me when I say Benedict Cumberbatch would have easily walked home with the Oscar. It's a shame they couldn't split the prize up between them.
Turing was brilliant in his field, though more than a bit socially awkward (humor and sarcasm were frequently lost on him), but his talents at a young age brought him first face to face with the British military, and then to the top secret levels of MI6 (I feel dumb, but I never knew MI6 was real). Why?
Intelligence had collected one of the Nazi's infamous Enigma machines. These devices were used to code every German message so perfectly as to be unbreakable at every turn. And every night at midnight, the code would change, meaning even IF someone had managed to break the code that day, and there were 150 million-million possibilities, it would be useless again the next day.
The Nazis were so confident in Enigma that they didn't even attempt to hide their broadcasts. Anybody with a radio could pick them up, but nobody could do anything with them. Every attack, every military move, every stratagem was mockingly out in the open, but couldn't be deciphered. Alan Turing and a team of codebreakers are given the impossible task to solve the Enigma puzzle.
One late member to Alan's team is Joan Clarke (Knightley), capable of solving word puzzles even faster than Turing. As a woman, though, she is not technically allowed to work on a military project, and her invaluable participation must be kept secret at all levels. Ironic, because the military would have also rejected Turing out of hand had they known his secret.
Turing developed a massive machine capable of running all possibilities of Enigma...truly, the world's first computer. At first, the machine can't quite do the work fast enough, but a brilliant discovery by Turing proved the computer would only need to run possibilities against certain letters, not every letter. By the end of his project, Turing and team had broken the Nazi code and turned the tide of war. Among many others, we knew Hitler was not heavily fortified at Normandy when the invasion began.
So it becomes clear that it is NOT an exaggeration to say Turing's work really is how the Allies were able to win the war and turn back what had up to then been an unseemingly stoppable juggernaut. Though the history is known, the film is smart, suspenseful, and strongly crafted, with a stunning cast. As mentioned, not enough can be said about Mr. Cumberbatch's work in the lead role here. Alan Turing is vividly real, from his triumphs to tragedies, from his genius to his faults.
Sadly, he wouldn't live to ever know that his work would be de-classified to the world. Had he lived, I've no doubt he would have become one of the world's most celebrated minds, as well as publicly apologized to by his homeland...not only for what he did in the War, but how he laid the groundwork for ALL modern computing. Tragically, we have missed that boat by over 60 years, and although Queen Elizabeth II posthumously exonerated him, history will never forget how arguably the largest hero of the War was shamed and destroyed.
This is a terrific looking period piece, with screenshots that are rich in detail and depth. Colors are natural-looking throughout, and images are crisply rendered, with no distortions or artifacting throughout.
There are a few scenes that lend some strong dynamic range and even some good rear stage usage to this uncompressed soundtrack. The mix is perfect, with dialogue never lost against the score or other sounds.
The extras include a commentary from the director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Graham Moore, two deleted scenes, a making-of documentary, and a half-hour Q&A with the filmmakers.
The Imitation Game is a remarkable film, worthy of all accolades and awards. This true story of how a triumph became a tragedy is riveting, engaging, and terrifically moving. This Blu-ray from Anchor Bay is a wonderful offering on every front.