The Imitation Game

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The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Morten Tyldum[1]
Produced by Nora Grossman
Ido Ostrowsky
Teddy Schwarzman
Written by Graham Moore[1]
Based on Alan Turing: The Enigma 
by Andrew Hodges
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch
Keira Knightley
Matthew Goode
Mark Strong
Charles Dance
Allen Leech
Matthew Beard
Rory Kinnear
Music by Alexandre Desplat[2]
Cinematography Óscar Faura
Edited by William Goldenberg
Production
company
Black Bear Pictures[3]
Bristol Automotive[3]
Distributed by StudioCanal
(United Kingdom)
The Weinstein Company
(United States)
Release dates
  • 29 August 2014 (2014-08-29) (Telluride Film Festival)
  • 14 November 2014 (2014-11-14) (United Kingdom)[4]
  • 28 November 2014 (2014-11-28) (United States)
Running time 114 minutes[5]
Country United Kingdom[6]
United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[7]
Box office $22.7 million[8]

The Imitation Game is a 2014 British-American historical thriller film about British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany's Enigma code that helped the Allies win the Second World War, only to later be criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality.[1][9][10][11] It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and is directed by Morten Tyldum with a screenplay by Graham Moore, based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.[12][13][14]

The film's screenplay topped the annual Black List for best unproduced Hollywood scripts in 2011.[1][15] After a bidding process against five other studios, The Weinstein Company acquired the film for $7 million in February 2014, the highest ever amount paid for US distribution rights at the European Film Market.[16]

The film had its world premiere at the 41st Telluride Film Festival in August 2014. It also featured at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival in September where it won "People's Choice Award for Best Film", the highest award of the festival. It had its European premiere as the opening film of the 58th BFI London Film Festival in October 2014.[17][18] The Imitation Game was released in the United Kingdom on 14 November 2014, and in the United States on 28 November.[4][19][20]

Synopsis

The film portrays the race against time by Alan Turing and his team of code-breakers at Britain's top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the Second World War. The group of scholars, mathematicians, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers had a powerful ally in Prime Minister Winston Churchill who authorised the provision of any resource they required. The film spans the key periods of Turing's life: his unhappy teenage years at boarding school; the triumph of his secret wartime work on the revolutionary electro-mechanical bombe that was capable of breaking 3,000 Enigma-generated naval codes a day; and the tragedy of his post-war decline following his conviction for gross indecency, a criminal offence stemming from his admission of maintaining a homosexual relationship.[21]

Cast

Production

Turing, the subject of the film, is considered the "Father of Theoretical Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence"

Before Cumberbatch joined the project, Warner Bros. bought the screenplay for a reported seven-figure sum because of Leonardo DiCaprio's interest in playing Turing.[27][28][29] In the end DiCaprio did not officially come on board and the rights of the script reverted to the screenwriter which was then picked up by Black Bear Pictures.[14][30] Various directors were attached during development including Ron Howard and David Yates.[31] In December 2012 it was announced that Headhunters director Morten Tyldum would helm the project, making the film his English-language directorial debut.[32]

Principal photography began on 15 September 2013 in England. Filming locations include Turing's former school, Sherborne and Bletchley Park where Turing and his colleagues worked during the war. Other locations include towns in England; Nettlebed (Joyce Grove at Oxfordshire), and Chesham (Buckinghamshire). Scenes were also filmed at Bicester Airfield and outside the Law Society Building in Chancery Lane. Principal photography finished on 11 November 2013.[33]

Bletchley Park, "the home of the codebreakers" where parts of the film were shot

The bombe seen in the film is based on a replica of Turing's original machine which is housed in the museum at Bletchley Park. Production designer Maria Djurkovic admitted, however, that her team made the machine more cinematic by making it larger and having more of its inside mechanisms visible.[34]

The Weinstein Company acquired the film for $7 million in February 2014, the highest ever amount paid for US distribution rights at the European Film Market.[16] The film is also a recipient of Tribeca Film Festival's Sloan Filmmaker Fund which grants filmmakers funding and guidance with regards to innovative films that are concerned with science, mathematics and technology.[35]

In June 2014 it was announced that Alexandre Desplat would provide the original score of the film.[2] Desplat composed and orchestrated the score in under three weeks together with the London Symphony Orchestra.[36]

The film's title refers to Turing's proposed test of the same name, which he discussed in his seminal 1950 paper on artificial intelligence entitled "Computing Machinery and Intelligence".[37] The paper opens:

Marketing and theatrical release

Cumberbatch on the cover of TIME, featuring one of the last remaining Enigma machines in the US from the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, November 2014[38]

Following the Royal Pardon granted by the United Kingdom to Turing on 24 December 2013, the filmmakers released the first official promotional photograph of Cumberbatch in character beside Turing's bombe machine on the same day.[3][39] On Turing's death anniversary week in June 2014, Entertainment Weekly released two new stills which marked the first look at the characters played by Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Matthew Beard and Allen Leech.[40] On what would have been Turing's 102nd birthday on 23 June, Empire released two photographs featuring Mark Strong and Charles Dance in character. Promotional stills were taken by photographer Jack English, who also photographed Cumberbatch for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.[41]

Princeton University Press and Vintage Books have both released movie tie-in edition of Andrew Hodges's biography Alan Turing: The Enigma in September 2014.[42] The first UK and US trailers were both released on 22 July 2014.[43] The international teaser poster was released on 18 September 2014 with the tagline, "The true enigma was the man who cracked the code."[44]

The film had its world premiere at the 41st Telluride Film Festival in August, and played at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival in September. It had its European premiere as the opening film of the 58th BFI London Film Festival on October 2014.[17][18] It had a limited theatrical release on 28 November 2014 in the United States, two weeks after its premiere in the United Kingdom on 14 November.[4][20] The US distributor TWC stated that the film would initially debut in four cinemas in Los Angeles and New York, expanding to six new markets on 12 December before releasing nationwide on Christmas day.[45]

"If any young person’s ever felt like they aren’t quite sure who they are, or aren’t allowed to express themselves the way they’d like to express themselves, if they’ve ever felt bullied by what they feel is the normal majority or any kind of thing that makes them feel an outsider, then this is definitely a film for them because it’s about a hero for them."

—Cumberbatch, at the European Premiere of the film at the London Film Festival, October 2014[46]

On 8 November 2014 The Weinstein Company co-hosted a private screening of the film with Digital Sky Technologies billionaire Yuri Milner and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Attendees of the screening at Los Altos Hills, California included Silicon Valley's top executives like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Linkedin’s Reid Hoffman, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Airbnb’s Nathan Blecharczyk and Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes to name a few. Director Tyldum, screenwriter Moore and actress Knightley were also in attendance.[47] In addition, Cumberbatch together with Facebook's Zuckerberg presented the Math Prizes at the Breakthrough Awards on 10 November 2014 in honour of Turing.[48]

The bombe machine re-created by the filmmakers has been on display in a special The Imitation Game exhibition at Bletchley Park since 10 November 2014. The year-long exhibit also features clothes worn by the actors and props used in the film.[49]

The official film website at theimitationgamemovie.com allows visitors to unlock exclusive content by solving crossword puzzles conceived by Turing in his lifetime.[50] Google, which also sponsored the New York Premiere of the film, launched a competition called "The Code-Cracking Challenge" on 23 November 2014. It is a skill contest where entrants must crack a code provided by Google. The prize/s will be awarded to entrant/s who crack the code and submit their entry the fastest.[51]

On 27 November 2014, ahead of the film's US release, The New York Times reprinted the original 1942 crossword puzzle from The Daily Telegraph used in recruiting codebreakers at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. Entrants who solve the puzzle can mail in their results for a chance to win a trip for two to London and a tour of Bletchley Park.[52]

Music

The film's score was composed by Desplat and the soundtrack was released by Sony Classical on 24 November 2014. It was recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios in London.[53]

The Imitation Game: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by Alexandre Desplat
Released 24 November 2014 (2014-11-24)
Recorded 2014
Genre Film score
Length 0:51:08
Label Sony Classical
No. Title Length
1. "The Imitation Game"   2:37
2. "Enigma"   2:50
3. "Alan"   2:57
4. "U-boats"   2:12
5. "Carrots and Peas"   2:19
6. "Mission"   1:36
7. "Crosswords"   2:52
8. "Night Research"   1:39
9. "Joan"   1:45
10. "Alone with Numbers"   2:58
11. "The Machine Christopher"   1:57
12. "Running"   3:01
13. "The Headmaster"   2:27
14. "Decrypting"   2:01
15. "A Different Equation"   2:54
16. "Becoming a Spy"   4:08
17. "The Apple"   2:20
18. "Farewell to Christopher"   2:41
19. "End of War"   2:07
20. "Because of You"   1:36
21. "Alan Turing's Legacy"   1:56
Total length:
0:51:08

Reception

Box office

The film opened #2 at the UK box office just behind the big-budget film Interstellar earning $4,278,909 million from 459 screens. Its opening box office figure is the third highest opening weekend haul for a UK film in 2014. It has also achieved a very high 90% “definite recommend” from its core audience, according to exit poll figures. Its opening was 107% higher than that of Argo, 81% higher than Philomena and 26% higher than The Iron Lady following its debut.[54][55]

Debuting in four cinemas in Los Angeles and New York on 28 November, the film grossed $479,352 in its opening weekend with a $119,352 per-screen-average, the second highest per-screen-average of 2014 and the 7th highest of all time for a live-action film. Adjusted for inflation, it also outperformed The Weinstein Company's own Oscar-winning films The King's Speech ($88,863) in 2010 and The Artist ($51,220) in 2011, which were also released on Thanksgiving weekend. The film expanded into additional markets on 12 December and will be released nationwide on Christmas day.[56][57][58]

Critical response

Cumberbatch at the premiere of the film at TIFF, September 2014

The film has received positive reviews with critics particularly lauding Cumberbatch's lead performance as Turing.[59] Rotten Tomatoes sampled 139 critics and judged 88% of the reviews to be positive. The site states that the film "serves as an eminently well-made entry in the 'prestige biopic' genre."[60] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100, the film has a score of 72 based on 39 reviews indicating a generally positive reception.[61] The film also received a grade of "A+" from market-research firm CinemaScore and was included in both the National Board of Review's and American Film Institute's "Top 10 Films of 2014."[62][63][64]

The New York Observer's Rex Reed declared that "one of the most important stories of the last century is one of the greatest movies of 2014" while Kaleem Aftab of The Independent gave the film a five-star review hailing it the "Best British Film of the Year."[65][66][67] Lou Lumenick of the New York Post described it as a "thoroughly engrossing Oscar-caliber movie" with critic James Rocchi adding that the film is "strong, stirring, triumphant and tragic."[68] Empire described it as a "superb thriller" with Glamour declaring it "an instant classic."[69][70] Peter Debruge of Variety added that the film is "beautifully written, elegantly mounted and poignantly performed."[71] Critic Scott Foundas stated that the "movie is undeniably strong in its sense of a bright light burned out too soon, and the often undignified fate of those who dare to chafe at society's established norms."[72] Critic Leonard Maltin asserted that the film has "an ideal ensemble cast with every role filled to perfection." In addition, praise was given to Keira Knightley's supporting performance as Joan Clarke, William Goldenberg's editing, Desplat's score, Óscar Faura's cinematography and Maria Djurkovic's production design.[73] The film was also enthusiastically received at the Telluride Film Festival and won the "People's Choice Award for Best Film" at TIFF, the highest prize of the fest.

Cumberbatch signing autographs at the Toronto International Film Festival, September 2014

TIME ranked Cumberbatch's portrayal number one in its Top 10 performances of 2014, with the magazine's chief film critic Richard Corliss calling Cumberbatch's characterisation "the actor’s oddest, fullest, most Cumberbatchian character yet... he doesn’t play Turing so much as inhabit him, bravely and sympathetically but without mediation."[74][75] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times declared Turing "the role of Cumberbatch's career" while A.O. Scott of The New York Times stated that it is "one of the year’s finest pieces of screen acting."[76][77] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone asserted that the actor "gives an explosive, emotionally complex" portrayal. Critic Clayton Davis stated that it's a "performance for the ages ... proving he's one of the best actors working today."[78][79] Foundas of Variety wrote that Cumberbatch's acting is "masterful ... a marvel to watch" with Manohla Dargis of The New York Times describing it as "delicately nuanced, prickly and tragic" and Owen Gleiberman of the BBC proclaiming it an "emotionally tailored perfection."[80][81] It's "a storming performance from Cumberbatch: you'll be deciphering his work long after the credits roll" declared Dave Calhoun of Time Out.[82] In addition, Claudia Puig of USA Today concluded in her review that "It's Cumberbatch's nuanced, haunted performance that leaves the most powerful impression."[83] The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy wrote that the undeniable highlight of the film was Cumberbatch "whose charisma, tellingly modulated and naturalistic array of eccentricities, talent at indicating a mind never at rest and knack for simultaneously portraying physical oddness and attractiveness combine to create an entirely credible portrait of genius at work."[84][85] Critic Roger Friedman wrote at the end of his review that "Cumberbatch may be the closest thing we have to a real descendant of Sir Laurence Olivier."[86]

While praising the performances of Cumberbatch and Knightley, Catherine Shoard of The Guardian stated the film is "too formulaic, too efficient at simply whisking you through and making sure you've clocked the diversity message".[87] Meanwhile, Tim Robey of The Telegraph described it as "a film about a human calculator which feels ... a little too calculated."[88] Some critics also raised concerns about the lack of sex scenes in the film to highlight Turing's homosexuality.[89]

The Turing family

Despite earlier reservations, Turing's niece Inagh Payne told Allan Beswick of BBC Radio Manchester that "the film really did honour my uncle" after Payne watched the film at the London Film Festival in October 2014. In the same interview, Turing's nephew Dermont Turing stated that Cumberbatch is "perfect casting. I couldn't think of anyone better." James Turing, a great-nephew of the codebreaker, said Cumberbatch "knows things that I never knew before. The amount of knowledge he has about Alan is amazing."[90]

Controversy and historical accuracy

Knightley who plays Joan Clarke in the film

During production, there was criticism regarding the film's purported downplaying of Alan Turing's homosexuality,[91] particularly condemning his relationship with close friend and one-time fiancée Joan Clarke as portrayed in the film. Andrew Hodges, a biographer of Turing, described the script as having "built up the relationship with Joan much more than it actually was",[92] and Turing's surviving niece Inagh Payne thought that Knightley was inappropriately cast as Clarke, whom she described as having been "rather plain".[93]

"There is not – and never has been – a version of our script where Alan Turing is anything other than homosexual, nor have we included fictitious sex scenes"

—Producers of the film on criticisms[94]

Speaking to Empire, director Morten Tyldum expressed his decision on directing the film; "It is such a complex story. It was the gay rights element, but also how his (Turing's) ideas were kept secret and how incredibly important his work was during the war, that he was never given credit for it."[41]

In an interview for GQ UK, Matthew Goode, who plays a fellow cryptographer of Turing in the film, stated that the script focuses on "Turing's life and how as a nation we celebrated him as being a hero by chemically castrating him because he was gay."[95]

British historian Alex von Tunzelmann, writing for The Guardian in November 2014, pointed out historical inaccuracies in the film. She wrote that the film slandered Turing by accusing him of cowardice and treason for not revealing a Soviet spy, who in reality he is unlikely to have met in the first place.[96] Christian Caryl also found numerous historical inaccuracies, decribing the film as a poor imitation of Alan Turing.[97]

In November 2014 the grandchildren of Commander Alastair Denniston (portrayed by Dance in the film) spoke of their dismay claiming that the film takes an “unwarranted sideswipe” at his memory, showing him to be a “hectoring character” who hinders the work of Turing. In real life, relatives say, he was a “humble” man devoted to his work, and they want his true contribution to the war effort to be recognised. The filmmakers released a statement saying, “Cdr Denniston was one of the great heroes of Bletchley Park. As such, he had the perhaps unenviable position of being a layman overseeing the work of some of the century’s finest mathematicians and academics — a situation bound to result in conflict as to how best to get the job done."[98]

Accolades

References

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External links