Neither SF nor fantasy, this biopic of a real-life nerd hero introduces Turing to people who should know his name—and it’s a contender for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars.

Title: The Imitation Game

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Morten Tyldum

Written by Graham More
Adapted from Andrew Hodges’s Turning: The Enigma.

Cast

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing
Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke
Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander
Rory Kinnear as Detective Robert Nock
Allen Leech as John Cairncross
Matthew Beard as Peter Hilton
Charles Dance as Commander Denniston
Mark Strong as Stewart Menzies
James Northcote as Jack Good
Alex Lawther as Young Alan Turing
Jack Bannon as Christopher Morcom
Sir Winston Churchill as Himself (archival footage)
Adolf Hitler as Himself (archival footage)

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb.

Premise:

Alan Turing leads the team that cracks the Enigma Code during World War II, but later faces persecution for homosexual activity.

High Point:

Cumberbatch gives a stunning central performance as an often-misunderstood genius trying to get along in the world, and his non-sexual relationship with Knightley’s Joan Clarke holds real chemistry and power. A childhood friendship of Turing’s has also been sensitively handled.

Low Point:

I know Hollywood will always tamper with the facts, and the artistic touches may be necessary to simplify complex events or sell the story. Several of the changes, I feel, detract rather than enhance. The story is fascinating enough. Does the film really need to:

-overplay the prevalent sexism and homophobia of the time? It was bad, but the British were remarkably pragmatic during the Second World War. Turing’s homosexuality was an open secret in Bletchley Park, and quietly accepted until he ran afoul of police after the war. And Joan Clarke worked at Bletchley before Turing, and was added to his team, where she worked alongside the men without the kind of silly manipulation and overt discrimination shown in the film.

-turn Denniston into a movie-trope unenlightened military jackass who opposes Turing? The conflicts shown between the two are almost entirely invented. In reality, Denniston knew and respected the value of Turing’s work.

-insert a Soviet spy into Turing’s team in order to create further drama? The character is real, but he didn’t work alongside Turing, and his presence did not lead others to suspect Turing’s loyalty.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 It’s an adaptation, but we’ve long needed a popular biopic of Turing.

Story: 5/6

Effects: 6/6 The brief recreations of the war and its effects have been masterfully done, and the movie also makes effective use of archival footage.

Production: 6/6

Acting: 6/6 The film has a strong cast of the year, approaching those of best-pic rivals Birdman and Boyhood. Cumberbatch and Knightley are excellent together.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 6/6

In total, Imitation Game receives 38/42.