A look at The Imitation Game (M)
BENEDICT Cumberbatch has carved out a substantial acting niche as the man who is first pick to play genius loners.
Think Sherlock in the current ABC-TV adaptation of the Conan Doyle classic. Except it’s set in the 21st century this time with Dr Watson played by Martin Freeman trailing along behind the antsy investigator.
Also Assange, where Cumberbatch takes on the role of the grounded Aussie computer whiz.
Cumberbatch is outstanding in both roles.
Here during World War 2 he’s Alan Turing the mathematician, cryptographer and computing pioneer whose task is to unlock the daily code generated by Nazi Germany’s Enigma machine.
The machine can spit out an enormous number of combinations. Think 159 and then place 18 zeroes after it.
Enigma automatically resets each day at midnight. So if the codes for the previous day haven’t been cracked, it’s back to square one at a minute past the witching hour.
That’s one giant problem for Turing. The other is to decipher the people with whom he has to work at Bletchley Park, the rural estate where Britain’s top cryptanalysts worked in the Forties.
There’s the facility’s abrupt Commander Deniston (Charles Dance), devious MI6 operative Menzies (Mark Strong) and even Turing’s world-wise team leader Hugh (Matthew Goode).
Hugh’s a bit of a pants man and Goode plays this character trait to maximum effect when the team takes time off down at a local pub.
Turing’s main supporter as he feverishly builds embryonic computer ‘Christopher’ (known as ‘Colossus’ back in the day) is brilliant Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley).
Ostensibly she’s employed as a secretary and can only join the code-breaking team after hours.
It’s one of the best roles I’ve seen Knightley play in recent years. In real life, Clarke may have been even brighter than Turing himself.
He acknowledges to a fellow officer when candidates are sitting a mathematical-code breaking entrance exam. to join the Bletchley Park team, she’d completed the task even more smartly than he had.
Turing also has to hide his homosexuality. Although in wartime he barely acknowledges being gay, by 1951 in Manchester a curious police detective (Rory Kinnear) comes into his life.
The police are investigating after a break-in at Professor Turing’s apartment and seeking information.
The copper doggedly pursues as many avenues about Turing as he can, even discovering an empty envelope about his man filed at the office of Britain’s leading secret military establishment.
As a top-ranked Bletchley Park officer, Turing’s wartime papers had been shredded – or probably, just burnt.
It was as if the Bletchley Park staff had never existed.
This is a riveting movie and Cumberbatch seems certain to be in the last five male actors at the 2015 Academy Awards.
It’s hard to figure out just who could edge him for this year’s Oscar.