DVD Review- The Imitation Game (2014)

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Recognised as one of the best British films of the past decade, The Imitation Game, directed by Morten Tyldum (known for ‘Headhunters’ and ‘Fallen Angels’) and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

The film opens with the confident yet slightly abrasive protagonist instructing his interrogator, and audience, to “pay attention” as he describes his time at Bletchley.

Based on the true story of cryptanalyst, Alan Turing, and his team of codebreakers during the Second World War, the Imitation Game follows Turing (Cumberbatch) through certain key moments in his life – including his unhappy adolescence, relationships with school friend Christopher, who introduced him to coding, and Joan Clarke (Knightley), and triumphant wartime efforts on decoding the German ‘Enigma’. Despite these endeavours drastically affecting the war (reportedly saving 14 million lives, as the war was shortened by two years) Turing’s sexuality was questioned and eventually led to his conviction for a now-outdated law. Receiving a number of nominations for Academy Awards and BAFTAs, The Imitation Game won an award for ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ – losing out on more due to the immensely popular film, the Theory of Everything, despite Tyldum’s film being more critically acclaimed. Although the film was not awarded with other titles, it just shows how prosperous British cinema is at the moment, with some outstanding performances and interesting storylines.

The beautiful score was composed by Alexandre Desplat, who had also produced the score for the Grand Budapest Hotel in the same year. The Imitation Game’s original music (purportedly created in less than three weeks), shows Desplat’s versatility, with an extremely grand and atmospheric sound anchoring what is seen on screen, aiming to combine the emotional life of Turing as well as his wartime discoveries through repetition of musical motifs and patterns.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the detached and rather socially-inept cryptanalyst with surprising emotion and depth – noted especially as the medicine, he received as punishment, begins to take effect, as the slightly stuttering, but wholly capable, Turing begins to deteriorate and fear for the loss of his machine. Keira Knightley is a great supporting actress, providing a collected, sensible counterpart to Cumberbatch’s sometimes frantic character, despite statements that she was not well cast (the real Joan Clarke being quite ‘plain’).

Although wholly praised for its historical portrayal, the film was criticised for certain inaccuracies, such as the immediate effects of Turing’s chemical castration – however, the filmmakers stated they wanted to make the film more passionate, giving the audience a feel for what Turing would have experienced, rather than producing an overly realistic fact-file of his life. One inaccuracy that detracts from the film, however, is the downplaying of Turing’s sexual preferences and the over-exaggeration of his relationship with Clarke – possibly in an effort to romanticise the film, which instead makes it appear as if the director and producers are shying away from portraying the topic of Turing’s homosexuality.

Tyldum’s evocative dramatisation of Turing’s life and punishment was honoured by the Human Rights Campaign for bringing the harsh effects of the law against homosexuality to the foreground, and recently inspired a campaign to pardon the approximate 49,000 men who were also convicted of consenting same-sex relations before the law was repealed in 2003, which has been backed by figures such as Stephen Fry, Anna Wintour, and Bryan Cranston.

The Imitation Game is an incredible film, and although it may have lost out on a number of awards, reminds us that film can make a difference in the world – whether it be exposing a truth of some kind, or inspiring people to change or act on something –triumphs that Morten Tyldum’s film can definitely pride itself in achieving.

Jenn Spiers

Genre:Drama, History, Biography Distributor: Studiocanal UK DVD Release Date:9th March 2015(UK) Rating: 15 Director: Morten Tyldum Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Mark Strong, Charles Dance Buy:The Imitation Game [DVD]