SCRIPT REVIEW – THE IMITATION GAME
By: Graham Moore
Based On: “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges
Premise: The story of how Alan Turing cracked the impossible “Enigma” code, which helped the Allies win World War 2.
Alright, gotta be honest about why I’m choosing to review this script now. After I read that questionable Chewie script, my page count went way the fuck up...and since you fuckers seem to want Black List script reviews...why not go with the number one script on that bad boy!
Which leaves us here. With the masterpiece that is The Imitation Game. I talked about it in my review of When the Streetlights Go On, and it bears repeating...but seriously, this script is the real deal. While almost every other spot on dat big ol’ Black List is gonna get questioned by people, the number one spot is pretty much indisputable. Read any script that was #1 and that shit will blow you away. Fucking guaranteed at this point. Which again, leads us to today’s script...The Imitation Game.
If you weren’t already aware, the script is a biopic centered around puzzle-enthusiasm Alan Turing. (I’m not trying to be insulting...he repeats over and over how into cracking puzzles he is). Anyways, our boy Alan is cut from the same cloth as a lot of other biopic types...the Zuckerbergs, Bobby Fischer, John Nash type. He’s a ridiculously smart dude who has trouble connecting with others but that also has a really strong desire to figure something out. To solve a problem that only he can solve...all that shit. So what’s special about Turing, what the fuck is this damn Enigma machine? Why the fuck is this script #1 on the BLACK LIST?!?!!?!
‘Cus this baby moves you. It’s weird, starting this script...I thought it was in for a long haul. It starts off with this strange V.O., and you’re thinking it’s gonna be an overwrought V.O. heavy biopic that’s starting with his death and showing you the lead-up...all that cliché biopic shit. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT...nothing. It pretty much does exactly that. BUT HERE’S the difference...
...Every scene matters. Supposedly, the guy who wrote this (and made a fucking million dollar sale out of it...nice) wrote and rewrote this thing for a year plus. And man, does it show (in the best way possible). Every single scene in this script is the type to make you remember and talk about it after. There’s scenes that are TRULY hilarious...like genuine laugh out loud moments...and I’m not talking about some bullshit little comic relief moments...I’m talking about scenes that will rival the funniest scene in a comedy this year. And there’s scenes, especially those towards the ends, that are truly heartbreaking. Again, if you weren’t aware, turns out Turing was gay. He’s not running out waving his arms about it, in fact, he’s incredibly private and possibly even confused about it, but (spoiler) he ends up being...punished...shall we say...about it in the end. And damn, by the time you finish...if it doesn’t absolutely bring you to some emotional high then you are a goddamn robot. Leave my page, robot of Google. Wait ‘til I get some Terminators on my side, then we’ll see who’s boss.
Back to the script, it’s this high hIgh HIGH! Level of emotion that’s embedded within every scene that makes this one so memorable. Sure, there’s a lot of other reasons it works so wonderfully as well. Namely, in it’s structure and plotting...but it’s the great GREAT moments of character that are the most memorable. You’d be surprised how many biopics I’ve read where the motherfucker who’s supposedly BIOPIC worthy is the most boring part about the whole thing. Not Turing, no. Not his first love, Christopher. Not his boss Menzie...I could go on and on here. They are all original, three-dimension, and HUMAN characters with strong motivations and fleshed out ideals that make them pop off the page.
But like I mentioned, there’s also some unbelievably great structure shit going on here. While most biopics want to milk their leads story for every bit it’s worth (COUGH AND NOT SO SUBTLE LOOK TOWARD J. EDGAR), The Imitation Game is too smart for that nonsense. Instead, it’s a three part story...starting with his life after arrest, going back to his early days as an unpopular teenager...and for the majority of the story, as a young man attempting to solve the Enigma puzzle. The way all of it dovetails together in the end is beautiful, and from a structural standpoint, really creative...you don't see them coming together as perfectly as they do in the best of ways possible.
But again, this Engima machine run by the damn Germans sends out codes of attack during the war. It’s impossible to solve, but this is what makes it so desirable to a guy like Turing. Without even realizing it, the goals/stakes/emotions/weight of Turing needing to solve the Engima have been laid ALL OVER YOUR ASS and you didn’t even know it. Yup, look at you, thinking you know every trick in the book...and then here comes The Impression Game, sneaking in loads and loads of drama and empathy for its character/story without you even noticing. This is good writing, people of Earth. Nothing is slammed over your head. Nothing is repeated ten fucking times and underlined for your dumbass to make sure it remembers something. Everything is simple, subtle, nuanced, yet powerful and empowering. Good shit.
I’m not gonna jerk off all over this one as much as I did with Streetlights. It’s already got Numero Uno spot on Black List...I think it’ll survive...but it really is on the same level. It’s a script that can’t be emphasized and explained to you enough, you really just got sit your lazy ass down and read it. And trust me, it’ll be worth it. There’s very few reads these days that leave me shaking by the end of it...but man, this is one of them. You’ll be glad you did.