Hollywood Rewind | The Imitation Game: Benedict Cumberbatch is the master of playing complex and genius men
Over the years, British star Benedict Cumberbatch has played awkward, charismatic and intelligent personalities with incredible conviction. Be it Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Strange, or the genius computer scientist Alan Turing.
To solve puzzles on-screen, while thinking deeply and with purpose sound like fun in theory; but for the actor who is doing it, it’s art. He is creating a realistic portrayal of a living person in real time. Almost magical when you put it that way, but at the other end of the spectrum is the audience. How can it be fun for an audience to watch a person solve nerdy things and look at things intently when he does them? And they would be right for most part. Making something of that nature appealing to a wide audience seems difficult. But then, Benedict Cumberbatch has often risen to that obstacle and played complex, intelligent personalities with a confounding amount of conviction.
In the well-directed and subtle The Imitation Game (2014), Norwegian director Morten Tyldum captains one extremely enigmatic man’s biopic with great dexterity. I am talking about the pathbreaking modern computer scientist Alan Turing. The movie charts Turing’s rise and fall in less than two hours. Although a biopic, the focus of the film remains largely on the part when Alan is recruited by the British intelligence agency MI6 to crack the enigma which the Nazis used to send coded messages to each other. This is in the midst of the World War II, and Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister.
The movie has been criticised for some inaccuracies, but since this is a film, and the facts were not grossly distorted, the cinematic liberty to tell an engrossing tale on screen seems permissible. However, my primary complaint with it — as good as it was — was that we hardly get to see Turing struggle with his sexuality, come to terms with it and to embrace it in secret. Of course, we see his banishment, his post chemical castration condition, all ably played by the protagonist. But I would have liked to see a little more of the human drama, and the genius man’s personal struggle, how it had a troubled relationship with his profession, and the affect that it had on his mental health.
One of the highlights of The Imitation Game is certainly the precious friendship of Turing and his wife and best friend, Joan Clarke (a wonderful Kiera Knightley). Both Knightley and Cumberbatch were nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress categories for their winning acts.
Here is something that shows Cumberbatch did his research to play the master. TRIGGER WARNING: Turing was punished for his sexuality during the war, despite his contributions to aid his country and end the battle. Post his chemical castration, a device was implanted surgically in his leg to ensure that he would get his dose of oestrogen after every meal for two years until the ‘hormonal therapy’ was complete, and while they don’t explicitly show this in the film, Cumberbatch gave Turning a limp towards the end of the movie to signify this change in his physical movement. While speaking to Deadline about it, the actor said, “Turing had a slight off, humorous, incredibly repressed emotional response to it, trying to make it something light. But Turing was the same person who, in another much darker moment, went into his kitchen, opened the drawer, pulled out a carving knife and gouged his leg open to try and remove the device. In the last moments of the film you’ll notice I give Turing a limp, and that’s a nod to that.”
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The Imitation Game was a massive box office hit, and ended up being nominated for the prestigious Academy Award in eight categories that year.
You can watch the film on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Google Play.