Benedict Cumberbatch is on point as the complex Alan Turing in this excellent biopic

The Imitation Game’s smartest decision is to bury Alan Turing’s sexual orientation to a mere smidgen of screen time. It was an insignificant matter even if a brutish, near-sighted government dictated otherwise. This is not a parade of sexuality, rather an effect of it.

Under the studio system, Imitation Game may have been fiercely formulaic. Certainly, some of this story is told with the functional oddities needed to make these historical figures appealing to a wide audience. Benedict Cumberbatch is ridiculously comfortable as Turing. Through his mannerisms, Turing becomes narcissistic, sharp witted, egregiously forthcoming, obsessive, and an irritating example of smug intellectualism. But, he can be all of those things. His genius was a marvel, his contributions staggering. Imitation Game shows how much so.

This is a World War II movie, one without guns or missiles. Scenes (flashes, really) of airplanes bombing cities and naval warships in combat appear included because it is customary. The rest is smaller, one, sometimes two rooms which lie at the war’s unexpected heart. Turing works feverishly. His co-workers hate him. Bureaucrats don’t understand the process.

It is glossy but not too much so, charming yet not overtly commercial.

Turing’s specialized company, but a mere few people in an unremarkable village are tearing down the German Enigma code. It appears impossible. Imitation Game is swift in building odds, as much as it is in creating Turing the character. Both sides are engaging.

The film has class and a prestige. It is glossy but not too much so, charming yet not overtly commercial. Imitation Game’s approach to war does not lack empathy. It exists in the cruelty of a moral gray area – for the greater good – and dramatically activates on the burdens which such a situation creates.

Imitation Game becomes a film of loneliness. It often isolates Turing as a person and character. A seamless transition through time periods offers glimpses of a complicated emotional childhood and his detached post-war life. His only bond is to the machines he created; they didn’t judge him.

Through Cumberbatch, Imitation Game stands as the portrait of an important figure, oft ignored or forgotten. It is also a portrait of human individualism. It would be overly limiting to call it a film which exposes the importance of being different – that’s a broad lesson more akin to Sesame Street. Doing so would miss the ramifications of a less inclusive society. Turing gave us the inception of computers, used them to halt a war, but was condemned to an emotional death because of genetics. Imitation Game depicts an unforgivable crime.

Movie ★★★★★ 

Tense close-up @ 1:31:54

Vividly detailed and textured, Imitation Game has plentiful visual might. Close-ups resolve facial definition crisply and with consistency. Cinematography is not particularly adventurous with the lens.

There are two palettes in the film, one holding a warmer sepia tint, the other hitting images with a dense teal. The differentiation is noticeable and key in presenting time periods, yet ultimately feels limiting. Such thick digital grading saps some of the life out of this film-based production.

And yes, this is film even if Imitation Game may fleetingly show it. Grain is inconsequential. There are no instances of filtering or noise reduction – the stock itself merely holds a fine structure. Any impact on the encode courtesy of Anchor Bay goes unnoticed.

Black levels and contrast make an excellent pairing. Night sequences are intensely shadowed with dense blacks, daylight the sterling opposite. Highlights are rich. Lighting schemes are beautiful in their focus. It’s gorgeous work all around.

Note some low quality stock war footage is used on occasion and looks as expected.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Scenery is noticed within the audible realm of this DTS-HD mix. Train stations and parties excel with their ambiance. The rustling of Turing’s early computer is even present in an appropriate channel once it begins to function. A specific scene has a ticking clock randomly ping a speaker to fill a small montage.

The handful of wartime scenes, from bombings to submarines launching torpedos, are spacious and thick. However, they lack the gravity of full action dramas. While the subwoofer works (in particular during an air raid handled underground), they come through restrictive. Any spread is merely serviceable.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Director Morten Tyldum pairs with screenwriter Graham Moore for commentating work. Moore’s passion for the project is obvious. A making of appears to be a mere promo but then segues into something with energy while exuding a respect for Turing’s legacy. It is hampered by minimal length (22 minutes) yet is worth watching. Two deleted scenes are minor.

The final bonus is a Q&A after a screening, featuring much of the production crew including Moore. This runs for a half hour.

Extras ★★★☆☆ 

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.