Benedict Cumberbatch has emerged as one of the biggest talents in recent years. Yet oddly he hasn’t had many major starring vehicles. Cumberbatch has proven his worth in many supporting roles. Meanwhile, Sherlock contains his breakthrough performance and has offered him a perfect vehicle for his talents, but it is not a motion picture and has more of an Internet following then a true mainstream following. His only other starring vehicle has been the little seen The Fifth Estate. That is until now. The Imitation Game is the film that finally puts Cumberbatch in the A-list. Like Sherlock, the film gives him an eccentric role that allows him to display his full potential while never making it seem like he is hamming it up. Just his performance alone makes The Imitation Game interesting. Yet The Imitation Game still feels like a slightly missed opportunity. The film is a barebones approach to a rather fascinating subject, and it is done in such a straightforward way that it is constantly fighting to stay above a movie-of-the-week level.
The Imitation Game follows mathematician Alan Turing as he tries to crack the Nazi Navy’s enigma code with much resistance from the military establishment in Great Britain. This plotline is bookended by another plotline set later in Alan Turing’s life when the local police investigate a break in at his house. The format is actually an interesting direction from director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Graham Moore as it sets up a mystery to spice up the story. Unfortunately, Tyldum and Moore handle it in such a fashion that the film’s answers appear right on its sleeve. What could have been an interesting mystery is anything but, and it feels rather amateurish. It even takes up time from another storyline involving Turing’s childhood relationship with a fellow student that actually works well even without Cumberbatch’s presence.
The main storyline also suffers from being another standard approach to a biopic as it just goes from major point in Turing’s life to the next with too much saying instead of showing why these accomplishments are so important. Nor does it give us much insight into Turing.
The Imitation Game is ultimately just another solid addition to the Oscar bait genre. It is certainly entertaining and the great cast (Mark Strong is probably the highlight of the supporting cast in an against type role as an MI6 agent) really beefs up the material, but there are clearly a lot of missed opportunities to turn this into something really special.