An Average “The Imitation Game” Saved By Strong Cumberbatch Performance

Released in November 2014, The Imitation Game entered the 2015 Oscar Race with lofty ambitions. Providing an intriguing adaptation on the somewhat untold full story of how the British overcame the German Enigma Machine as well as emphasising the ever-present obstacles faced by Alan Turing throughout this excessively arduous period. Does it manage to crack the code? Or is it a puzzle too far for this Oscar contender?


Round 1 – Story

As mentioned above, The Imitation Game describes the ridiculously difficult task assigned to a specific group of English code breakers during World War 2. Alan Turing (played with unconventional grace by Benedict Cumberbatch) is an awkward, anti-social figure employed by the British Army to decipher the impossible Enigma Machine mercilessly utilised by the German Army to cryptically pass co-ordinates and commands to vessels within their fleet. Although this is a story briefly passed around during High School history lessons, it seems unfair to those involved to simply disregard their involvement in the winning of the horrific Second World War. Again, as mentioned, Alan Turing was the figure firmly placed in the heart of this historical tale. 

On paper it is easy to assume that the story of The Imitation Game would be enough to ensure a thoroughly enjoyable film with an exceptional array of characters at its disposal. Unfortunately this isn’t necessarily the case. Although the characters are enjoyable enough to help the film pass by, the story fails to capitalise on the events it derives itself from. Although “based on true events” it felt more conjectural than contemporary, portraying Turing as the insufferable homosexual man struggling to fulfil the task he has been set by His Majesty’s Army. 

The confrontations felt forced, the concept of spies within the Bletchley Facility in which they were operating was swept away with wilful abandon, and the subtext of oppression, although relevant regardless of time, felt unnatural to the progression of the plot. I am in no condoning such abysmal behaviour, however instead of celebrating the lifestyle of Turing, the Story decided to chastise and undermine the lengths a man of such great significance to the war effort was forced to endure at all times.

ROUND 1 SCORE – 6/10

Round 2 – Characters

The Imitation Game spends the majority of its runtime following 5 people within the confines of the Bletchley Park, a military institute based in the heart of England with the singular task of decoping and deciphering the infamous Nazi Enigma Machine. 5 academically brilliant people capable of cracking the most difficult of puzzles known at the time.


With actors such as Matthew Goode, Keira Knightley and Allen Leech in support it is no surprise that Cumberbatch shines as much as he does. It’s almost as though their performances were slightly toned down in such a way to accentuate the “brilliance of Cumberbatch”. I’m not saying they didn’t contribute to the overall experience of the film, in fact I quite enjoyed Goode’s antagonisation of Turing throughout the film, however it is quite clear to see that only one person has been manufactured to succeed in the end.

Knightley achieves absolutely nothing by giving everything as Joan Clarke except for solidifying her status as the only actor around able to portray strong female characters with an unlikely sense of irony. I can’t quite put my finger on what the issue is, whether it’s her emotional range, or the unfortunate inability to portray anything plausible without instant becoming an anachronism is beyond me?

ROUND 2 SCORE – 5/10

Round 3 – Overall Enjoyment

As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions now, History has always been something of a guilty pleasure of mine. I love discovering new and interesting ways in which humanity has overcome obstacles of all shapes and sizes. The Imitation Game had the potential to do just that with this dramatisation of one of the most incredible acts of human achievement from the last 100 years.

The trade-off however comes in the form of the inability to sustain an entire cast of characters while portraying Turing as the genius he rightfully deserves to be regarded as. It is this overall neglect that unfortunately causes the film to suffer in terms of Overall Enjoyment. Instead of rooting for the main protagonist and the foils in which he faced, I found myself lamenting the characters surrounding him, wishing for an opportunity to enjoy the exceptional accomplishment on display. 

This is not to say The Imitation Game is a terrible film. Cumberbatch deserves all the credit he can get for this performance, however in terms of enjoyment, it appears this is a code still waiting to be cracked.

ROUND 3 SCORE – 5/10

FINAL SCORE – THE IMITATION GAME WINS BY DECISION 16/30

I entered in to The Imitation Game expecting to be blown away by a historically adept film anchored perfectly by the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch as its main character. What I received instead was a film let down by its characters in such a way that the story could not sustain the levels of credibility it greatly needed and deserved 

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