The crux of The Imitation Game is that emotions are difficult.
By the way you interpret them, a sigh can be a sign of utter arrogance, a murmur could be monstrous, a wink could be a window into the heart. But if you look at them logically, statistically, mathematically, can you work out what they are? Can logic sympathise? Can numbers feel? Can machines think?
At the centre of this calculated machine is Benedict Cumberbatch in his best role to date. Playing Sherlock was just rehearsal time to play this enigma of an emotionally repressed, Sheldon Cooper-esque character. If he doesn’t get an Oscar, a nomination at least, he’ll be robbed.
Most of us know the story of Alan Turing: One of the greatest minds of the 20th century, the man who invented the computer and is responsible for breaking the Enigma code that helped end World War 2. He is credited by historians with helping to save 14 million lives.
And he was betrayed by his country, charged with homosexuality, left to be chemically castrated until he committed suicide in 1954. His achievements were only recognized a long time after his death.
And due to the historical spoiler problem, the film sometimes struggles.
It begins with Turing being interrogated, asked what exactly he did during the war. Interspersing scenes from various points, boyhood to suicidal at 41, Graham Moore’s often formulaic script sometimes lacks a drive that is needed to keep us hooked.
It is the machine, called Christopher after Turing’s first love, that takes front stage at The Imitation Game. But what lies beneath the calculating machinery is the unknowable, simmering, repressed thing called emotion. It is there, but as Turing cannot vocalise it well, the beats are either played with a heavy hand or not at all.
For those concerned that Turing’s sexuality would be whitewashed out of cinematic history, it’s there and quite proudly so. Director Morten Tyldum claimed in the pre-screening talk at the Science Museum in London the big budget studios refused to touch it once they learned it would be about a gay man, so they were forced to make it independently.
Alan Turing went to his death viewed as a calculating, arrogant, ‘poof’. With this film, he is a reasoned, proud, war hero. Emotions might be difficult sometimes, but it’s not difficult to see who’s the winner in this game.
The Imitation Game is out in UK cinemas on 14 November and in the US on 28 November.