TIMEINC.NET n the new movie "Imitation Game, " Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, who helped break the Nazi code during World War II.
TIMEINC.NET
In the new movie “Imitation Game, ” Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, who helped break the Nazi code during World War II.

★★★★☆

Director Morten Tyldum’s thrilling biopic on the life of inventor Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) transports the viewer to 1940s Britain during World War II. This historical thriller is propelled forward not only by the startling events of the war, but also through the stellar cast dynamics that bring a level of humanity to its characters.

Turing is part of a team of linguists and mathematicians tasked with breaking the Nazi code that can win the war for Britain. Such a plot sounds like it could be cooked up purely for the big screen, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that it is based on historical events.  Apart from the progression of the war, the narrative is pushed forward by the relationships between Turing and his coworkers as well as Turing’s struggle to come to terms with his own self-identity.

Turing’s interactions with his coworkers cannot help but seem a bit Steve Jobs-esque at the film’s outset. Turing is the typical misunderstood technology genius who works on his own and pushes away those who don’t understand his vision. He belittles his associates, calling them ignorant and unimaginative, and those around him refuse to understand the importance of the machine that Turing slaves over.

But then the tone shifts as Turing’s prodigy and later fiancee, Joan, forces him to make amends with the members on his code breaking team. Over the course of the film, this tortured, solitary Churchill-era Steve Jobs morphs into a complex character of increasing depth. The reborn Turing finds himself struggling to acclimate to a team dynamic in scenes rife with well-written British banter. Cumberbatch’s depiction of an arrogant, stubborn Turing gains greater sympathy as it is revealed that his character struggled with autism, and that he is very much the product of childhood bullying in a British prep school. As the backstory is slowly peeled away, the audience finds itself emotionally hooked to its misunderstood genius. No longer is Turing only a stubborn and complex punch line, but the product of disability and trauma.

Throughout the film, Turing develops and affinity for the moxie-filled female lead Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). Clarke battles the male-dominated world of mid-20th century mathematics and defies the odds to prove that women are, in fact, equal to men. While Knightley’s storyline does serve a good purpose in emphasizing this important message, it occasionally becomes trapped in cliches. In one scene, a male test proctor states that Clarke is supposed to be applying for a secretarial position when she arrives for her application examination. In the last minute before she is booted from the testing room, Turing swoops in with stern support and tells her to get to work. This sort of easily overcome angst feels rushed and hackneyed, as Clarke is subject to gender discrimination in the scene for just a brief period of time.

Protestant England was not the ideal place to be homosexual in the mid-20th century, and this leads to the film’s final and probably most highlighted social theme: homosexuality. While homosexuality does not drive the plot, it does take prominence towards the end of the narrative. Turing is questioned for being gay and knows what the consequences may be if he were to be discovered. And if the audience is aware of Turing’s well-known life story, then this build-up brings with it an element of foreshadowing that can cause only sadness and indignation.  He is eventually caught for “indecent behavior” and commits suicide, and this bitter conclusion brings to an end the legacy of this brilliant man.

This poignant final message on the struggles of the 20th-century gay community anchors the final third of the film and makes it highly relevant to 21st-century political issues. Gay marriage and gay rights are topics of constant controversy, and this movie attempts to affirm the humanity of its homosexual lead character.

Yes, “Imitation Game’s” world of unfairness and cruelty may seem like it is decades away, but in many ways the film turns a mirror on us through its themes of entrepreneurialism, gender equality and gay rights. Visionary entrepreneurial dreams drive our popular culture today, and men like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates rose from the woodwork like Turing to create innovative technology for the world to use. Women are still paid only about three-quarters for every dollar men are paid, and while marriage equality rulings and laws have been springing up throughout the country, the practice is only recognized in 35 out of 50 states. “The Imitation Game” is much more than just an action-packed war movie; it’s a film about who we are today and how far we still have to go.

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