In 2011, screenwriter Graham Moore’s script The Imitation Game, which charts the role mathematician and code breaker Alan Turing played in the Second World War, topped the annual Black List of best unproduced screenplays. Three years later, Moore’s script has finally materialised in a highly anticipated movie directed by award-winning Norwegian director Morten Tyldum and starring acclaimed British actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Audiences got their first glimpses of the movie online last week in the form of a short UK teaser trailer and a longer, two-and-a-half minute international trailer.
The film charts Turing’s mission to crack the Nazi Enigma Code in the Second World War and the crucial role his efforts had in the eventual Allied victory. Turing, credited as an early pioneer of the computer, was awarded an OBE for his outstanding contribution to the war effort, but was never truly celebrated in the way one would expect. He was infamously accused of and prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952, when it was still considered a criminal offence in the UK. Turing’s ‘treatment’ was chemical castration. This horrific sentence is often viewed as the cause behind Turing’s assumed suicide, two years later in 1954, aged only forty-one.
From the opening seconds of the trailer, The Imitation Game captures the atmosphere of fear and distrust which was abundant in Britain during the Second World War and the real possibility that the Allies could lose the war. The trailer also highlights the incredible threat and fatal impact the Enigma machine had: British Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong) tells Turing that during the space of a short conversation, Enigma will have killed three people. Technology, its importance and the fatal impact it can have is a very topical, modern and incredibly interesting theme.
Cumberbatch is one of the biggest names in Hollywood at the moment: since BBC’s mega hit Sherlock arrived on television screens in 2010, he has experienced a meteoric rise to stardom. Cumberbatch has made a name for himself playing eccentric geniuses and one could argue he runs the risk of being typecast, as his role as Alan Turing continues this streak. This would be an unfair criticism: Cumberbatch is expert at creating three-dimensional characters, with individual quirks, nuances and personalities. From the short preview the trailer gives of Cumberbatch’s performance, it is understandable and unsurprising that his performance is already being spoken in the same sentence as Academy Award nominations.
Keira Knightley plays Joan Clarke, Turing’s friend and fellow cryptanalyst. Oscar-nominated Knightley is always an incredibly likable screen presence and her involvement in the film makes it sound even more promising. The trailer makes it clear that Knightley and Cumberbatch have great chemistry, the two actors are close friends in real life and this is reflected in their performances on screen.
In the International Trailer, only a fleeting reference is made to Turing’s homosexuality: speaking about Joan, Turing asks “what if I don’t fancy her in that way?” to which a fellow co-worker replies “you can’t tell anyone Alan, it’s illegal.” The UK teaser trailer is even less explicit and merely refers to Turing as “a man with secrets.” It is certain that the full length film will deal much more explicitly with the issues and prejudices Turing encountered: the film is rendered all the more topical in light of the Queen’s recent and controversial royal pardoning in December 2013. In an interview with USA Today, Cumberbatch said: “the only person who should be pardoning anybody is him [Turing]. Hopefully, the film will bring to the fore what an extraordinary human being he was.”
The Imitation Game looks as though it will be an intriguing look at the life of this fascinating man, featuring tour-de-force performances and an intriguing insight into the British cabinet during the Second World War. The movie will open the 2014 BFI London Film Festival and is expected to be released internationally on 14th November 2014.