During the winter of 1952, British authorities entered the home of mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to investigate a reported burglary. They instead ended up arresting Turing himself on charges of ‘gross indecency’, an accusation that would lead to his devastating conviction for the criminal offense of homosexuality – little did officials know, they were actually incriminating the pioneer of modern-day computing. Famously leading a motley group of scholars, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers, he was credited with cracking the so-called unbreakable codes of Germany's World War II Enigma machine. An intense and haunting portrayal of a brilliant, complicated man, The Imitation Game a genius who under nail-biting pressure helped to shorten the war and, in turn, save thousands of lives.
Are you paying attention? Good, because I'm here to tell you about 'The Imitation Game', not just one of the best movies from 2014, but a film that won this reviewer over to the degree where it just might wind up on my list of all-time favorites. Not only is the story here completely engaging, but the screenplay is so sharply written, the acting (even in the smallest of supporting roles) is so good, and the characters so well-rounded, that this is the kind of movie one goes back to watch again and again just to relive the joy of watching a film where everything fits together perfectly. How 'The Imitation Game' failed to capture a Best Picture Oscar is anyone's guess, but like many nominees in the past that have missed out on the top award but lived to become much more loved than the movies they lost to, I have a feeling as more people get the chance to see 'The Imitation Game', the more it's going to be talked about and appreciated.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, a brilliant yet socially awkward and slightly self-centered mathematician and cryptologist who is called into the service of the British government during World War II to try and crack the Nazi's nearly impenetrable Enigma code. How impossible is the task? Well, according to this film, the number of different code combinations capable by the Engima machine was 159 million million million – that's 159,000,000,000,000,000,000, if you'd like to see it written out. Or, as the movie also points out, it's about 20 million years' worth of time to crack the code manually. The Nazis changed the code at midnight each and every day, so if you lucked upon cracking one day's code, it would change to something completely different the next day.
Turing joins a group of other scientists and code-cracking experts, but earns their loathing quite quickly when he goes off on his own to work on a large machine to try and decipher the entire Enigma code while the others are working each day on the individual coded messages themselves. After putting a crossword puzzle in the local paper to find other intelligent people in England who might be able to help, he enlists the aide of young Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), who sort of works for Turing undercover, as her strict parents would oppose her working alongside other males.
In addition to Turing's nearly impossible task and the ongoing conflict with his co-workers, he's under the gun from Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance) who eventually gives him and his team the ultimatum of creating a working machine in one month's time. Additionally, Turing is attempting to hide the fact that he's a homosexual from the others – not because he is ashamed, but because it was a crime in England in the 1940s and the revelation would send him to prison and remove him from the Enigma work.
Despite the fact that Turing is a homosexual, you won't find a better onscreen romance than the one between him and Joan Clarke. Here are two people who fall in love with each other for the mind that the other posesses, rather than for any physical reasons. Their friendship is one of the main reasons 'The Imitation Game' works so well on so many different levels.
While the main events of 'The Imitation Game' happen during the 1940s, the movie also jumps back and forward in time to show an investigation into Turing's military service by Detective Nock (Rory Kinnear) in 1951, as well as Turing as a young student (Alex Lawther) in 1927. While the story is not told in chronological order, the flow of the movie is brilliantly done and by the end of the film, viewers should have a better understanding of what kind of person Alan Turing was.
Other than the wonderful acting by Cumberbatch and Knightley in the lead roles, two things really stand out in 'The Imitation Game', if only because so many other movies totally fail in these departments. First, the screenplay – by Oscar winner Graham Moore – is razor sharp. The dialogue comes across like text from a classic novel. When you consider the age of Moore when he wrote the script (he's in his early 30s now and was almost certainly in his 20s when he penned it), the screenplay is even more impressive. Second, 'The Imitation Game' is loaded with wonderful character actors playing well-rounded and fleshed-out supporting parts. Most movies don't take the time or the effort to give viewers an interesting supporting cast. Here, not an actor or moment is wasted by the filmmakers, and the movie is so much stronger because of that.
Not only does 'The Imitation Game' give Alan Turing the place in history that he deserves, it also has a larger message about how society treats people who are different – whether it be mentally, physically, or according to sexual orientation. The movie is both uplifting and heartbreaking, both educational and entertaining, and quite possibly the best thing you'll see on the Blu-ray format all year long.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Imitation Game' decodes onto home video in this Blu-ray/Digital HD combo pack. The 50GB disc is housed inside a standard Elite keepcase, which also includes an insert containing a code for an UltraViolet copy of the movie, as well as an insert advertising the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, upon which the screenplay for 'The Imitation Game' was based. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the Blu-ray keepcase's slick slides overtop. The Blu-ray is front-loaded with trailers for Philomena and The King's Speech. The main menu consists of a montage of footage from the movie, with menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray is Region A locked.
'The Imitation Game' was shot on 35mm film using Arricam equipment and gets a stunning, reference-quality transfer to Blu-ray. How good does this movie look? So good I was surprised to discover it actually wasn’t shot digitally. Don't worry though, film lovers, as there's still a perceptible amount of grain in the background of every shot…it's just not obtrusive, and it certainly doesn't affect the wonderful detail we get here – as even the fibers and threads in the actors' clothing can be made out. Facial details are equally as good.
The film switches color palettes ever so slightly depending on what time period it is representing, with the 1920s being a little more bright, the 1950s having a much grayer tone, and the 1940s (where the bulk of the presentation is) being a balance between the other two periods. Black levels are strong throughout, so viewers will have no problems making out objects during nighttime or darker scenes. There are no glitches to be found in this really impressive looking transfer.
While the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5. 1 track isn't quite a reference-quality one, it's pretty darn good and exactly what one would hope to get with this type of release. There's some effective use of the surrounds in scenes involving thunderstorms and other scenes involving the Nazi bombing of England (including some LFE use as well). The track also has fun with directionality and audio placement, including one effective scene where Keira Knightly's character is entering a room where Benedict Cumberbatch's character is sitting off to the left and the closer she gets to him, the audio of his dialogue slowly moves from the left front speaker to the center one. Most of this movie, however, consists of people in rooms talking to one another, so those scenes lose some of the immersiveness that many other segments of the film have. Still, this is a pretty impressive track, with no real complaints and nothing in terms of glitches that I was able to hear.
In addition to the English lossless track, a Dolby Digital 5.1 track has been provided in Spanish. Subtitles are available in both English SDH and Spanish.
'The Imitation Game' might have turned out to be another stuffy, but sincere, historical drama. Instead, it's an engaging character piece with a brilliant screenplay, incredible performances, and some genuine emotion behind it. This is one of those movies where every actor delivers and every scene is engaging. It's far more than one of 2014's best films…it's one of the best movies of its kind. This is a must-own release.