Always a frontrunner for this year’s Oscar nominations, ‘The Imitation Game’ didn’t quite make the impact it was expected to with the recent reveal of the nominees. Despite taking second place in terms of number of nominations, discussion around the actual winners has centred around the critical trifecta darlings of ‘Boyhood’, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and ‘Birdman’. But it shouldn’t be underestimated, for the film itself is a compelling pic that sits amongst the best of its genre.
The wartime period biopic, which centres around the life of genius mathematician Alan Turing and his ultimately tragic story, manages to pace itself expertly in tone and structure to make it feel like a true drama, even if it takes poetic license with some events. Some may label ‘The Imitation Game’ a textbook biopic, and it is in many ways, but it follows the textbook so well that the audience can’t help but feel completely engaged by the telling of Turing’s life. And the factor all of this hinges upon is Benedict Cumberbatch’s expert performance.
It’s fair to say that Cumberbatch always turns in a good performance but when the entire film’s success or failure is determined by an actor’s skill, it is especially commendable that he pulls it off with impeccable nuance. There were moments in the film that felt like he was just playing his ‘Sherlock’ character but they never felt inconsistent with Turing’s portrayal. In a sense, Turing is a very Sherlock-like character and Cumberbatch uses this to his advantage. Kiera Knightley also deserves recognition for being able to stand toe-to-toe with Cumberbatch in the most heated dramatic scenes as Joan Clarke.
While the character aspect of the film is well-handled, it does, unfortunately, stumble a little plot-wise with the climax, building up a tension that is never fully diffused. But by the final ten minutes of the film we are already invested enough in the film’s characters that minute loose plot ends seem insignificant overall.
‘The Imitation Game’ is a character drama over a narrative drama and the score, direction and cinematographic style all point to that, honing in on Turing’s character like a dog to a bone.
It is well worth the price of admission for all fans of Benedict Cumberbatch and of period dramas in general.