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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Imitation Game | Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Charles Dance | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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The Imitation Game | Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Charles Dance | Review

“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”

That’s one of the best lines in one of the year’s best movies and it’s spoken to mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) by Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) to console the brilliant but decidedly odd, complicated, somewhat abrasive logician.

During WWII, Turing assembled a team of gifted cryptographers (code crackers) Clarke included, from intellectually-bestowed members of the population.  The test?  Being able to solve a difficult crossword puzzle in under ten minutes.  Clarke was the lone female contender, and after further testing, Turing finalized his talented team, chosen to attend England’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park.  Their purpose? Crack the German Enigma code, deemed unbreakable.  

With the invention and construction of a primitive, controversial “computer” to assist the team, Turing’s bombe machine is an important prototype in the history of computer science and computation theory, although almost no one realized it at the time.  Turing himself called the machine Christopher.

Pig-headed superior (and there must always be one, you know) Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) threatens to destroy Turing’s machine, but allows the team one month for a breakthrough.  British Secret Intelligence Service head Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong) is a much more amenable ally and the team is allowed to operate with autonomy.

Flashbacks and forwards reveal Turing’s mostly unhappy youth, the introduction of his only friend, and his post-war criminal prosecution for homosexuality, an event that no doubt contributed to his downward spiral and untimely demise.

The title refers to Turing’s test of the same name (from a 1950 scientific paper) to determine by a series of questions which participant is man and which is machine.

Cumberbatch plays the quirky, often irritating Turing with a cocky confidence, while Knightley provides the warmth and empathy that his character seems to lack.  The two mesh well as a type of screen couple, platonic, pragmatic co-workers full of mutual affection.  Dance and Strong are two singular but inevitable men-in-charge who call the shots and in one case, not always the right ones.

A sterling supporting cast includes Allen Leech, Matthew Goode, James Northcote, Rory Kinnear, Steven Waddington, and Jack Bannon.

Director Morten Tyldum (Headhunters) captures the periods (three) and attitudes of Turing’s universe while Graham Moore’s adaptation of Andrew Hodges’ book, “Alan Turing: The Enigma”  puts words in his and everyone else’s mouth in this intelligent, bittersweet and ultimately satisfying story of a different kind of man who definitely made a difference.


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