Biography Blu-ray Review

'The Imitation Game' Blu-ray Review

April 2, 2015Ben MK

The man, the machine, the enigma...

Official Studio Synopsis: The Imitation Game portrays the true story of the nail-biting race against time by Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his team at Britain's top-secret code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, who are under immense pressure to crack the German Enigma code during the early years of WWII. Turing's contribution to the Allies' war effort shortened the war, saving millions of lives, all while laying the foundations for modern day computing.

Distributor: Elevation Pictures
Release Date: March 31st, 2015
Format: Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy
Video: 1080p HD, 2.39
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Fran├žais DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Fran├žais, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 53 Mins.
Feature Rating:  

On the surface, Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of renowned British mathematician Alan Turing in The Imitation Game seems to harken back to his turn as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate, as both roles — at least at the outset — appear to be that of aloof and arrogant geniuses. But take heed of the question — "Are you paying attention?" — that Cumberbatch himself poses at the start of this biopic. Because there's more to Turing — and the story of his secret life and work during the Second World War — than meets the eye.

While many may only be familiar with Turing's academic accomplishments, the film (based on author Andrew Hodges' book, "Alan Turing: The Enigma") chronicles his lesser-known exploits as part of an elite grouping of minds tapped by MI6 to crack the German Enigma code, used by the Third Reich to transmit encrypted messages to the front lines. Despite working tirelessly to complete their top-secret mission, it was a machine built by Turing himself — which eventually paved the way for modern computing as we know it — that was instrumental in their success, expediting the Allies' victory and saving countless lives. Yet, as classified as this work was, Turing guarded a more controversial secret: his homosexuality. And less than a decade after the war ended, his persecution for it — then still considered a crime — led him to take his own life.

Although the story unfolds somewhat nonlinearly, alternating between key moments in Turing's life, director Mort Tyldum's (Headhunters) film is still very much in the vein of traditional biopics. Yet, the story evokes not only heartbreak, but humor and inspiration, thanks to Cumberbatch's impressively nuanced take on the role. Bolstered by a winning cast — including Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode and especially Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, a woman whose own experience with prejudice helps her form a close bond with Turing — the result is a compelling portrait of a tortured genius that few people ever really knew, and even fewer truly understood.

Audio/Visual Rating:  

As good as the movie is, The Imitation Game's Blu-ray A/V presentation is even better. Picture quality possesses a pleasing clarity and sharpness, bringing out the subtle details in the period production and costume design; the color palette, though intentionally drab, is well represented, with hues like red, green and navy blue popping off the screen particularly well; and black and contrast levels are rock steady, with no signs of any unsightly image defects to be found. On the audio side, the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is equally masterful, deftly handling the (albeit limited) demands of the movie's soundstage, which focuses heavily on the dialogue and the score, with only a handful of ambient effects — such as the sound of bombs being dropped over London and the mechanical clicking of Turing's universal computing machine — thrown in for good measure.

Extras Rating:  

Elevation Pictures' 2-disc combo release includes DVD and iTunes digital copies of the movie, as well as the following Blu-ray bonus features:

  • Feature Commentary with Director Morten Tyldum and Screenwriter Graham Moore - A well-paced and informative commentary track in which Tyldum and Moore impart some insight about various aspects of the movie and its production, discussing not only specific scenes, but also such things as its tone, structure, script, production design, music, filming locations and performances.
  • The Making of the Imitation Game (22:44) - A making-of featurette that utilizes interviews and film clips to provide viewers with a general overview of the movie and the real-life story that inspired it, including brief looks at Turing and his achievements, the actors, the characters and composer Alexandre Desplat's score.
  • Deleted Scenes (3:50) - Two deleted scenes, "Nock is Being Followed" and "Nock Discovers Alan," viewable either individually or via a "Play All" option.
  • Q&A Highlights (29:11) - A compilation of select footage from Q&A sessions held at the Telluride Film Festival, Screen Actors Guild and the Producers Guild of America in 2014, in which director Morten Tyldum, screenwriter Graham Moore and some of the other filmmakers and actors behind the movie discuss the film and their involvement in it before a live audience.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my TIFF review of the film, published on September 10th, 2014.

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