In Depth

'Oscar bait' Imitation Game opens London Film Festival

Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley among the stars on red carpet for LFF opening night

Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley braved the rain last night to open this year's London Film Festival with their latest movie The Imitation Game.

Cumberbatch stars as British code-cracking genius Alan Turing, who is tasked with unscrambling messages encrypted by the German Enigma machines during World War II.

He helps the Allies defeat the Nazis, only to be criminally prosecuted for being a homosexual and chemically castrated.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 08:Actor Benedict Cumberbatch attends the opening night gala screening of "The Imitation Game" during the 58th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square on

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2014 Getty Images

Cumberbatch told The Guardian last night that he felt a "certain weight of responsibility" in raising awareness of Turing's story.

"It's part of a momentum to give him the recognition he deserves as a scientist, the father of the modern computer age, a war hero and a man who lived an uncompromising life in a time of disgusting discrimination," said the actor.

He was joined on the red carpet at Leicester Square by Knightley, who plays Turing's fellow code breaker and one-time fiancee Joan Clarke, as well as other cast-members Charles Dance, Mark Strong and Downton Abbey actor Allen Leech (pictured below with his girlfriend, TV presenter Charlie Webster).

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 08:Actor Allen Leech and Charlie Webster attend the opening night gala screening of "The Imitation Game" during the 58th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester

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2014 Getty Images

The Imitation Game, which opens in UK cinemas on 14 November, is directed by Norwegian filmmaker Morten Tyldum (pictured below with his wife Janne).

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 08:Director Morten Tyldum (R) and Janne Tyldum attend the opening night gala screening of "The Imitation Game" during the 58th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leic

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2014 Getty Images

Kate Muir of The Times says Cumberbatch is "brilliant" as Turing. "There are moments where Cumberbatch's face conveys a raft of unspoken emotion, and I could watch him read out the alphabet – which is basically what he does in this film – and still be mesmerised."

Ryan Lambie at Den of Geek says the "best-of-British" cast "ably backs up the central attraction". He singles out for particular praise a scene in which Alex Lawther (pictured below), playing a young Turing, is "absolutely astonishing" in one lengthy take focused on his eyes. "The hurt and pain of the whole film is in those eyes," says Lambie.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 08:Alex Lawther attends the opening night gala screening of "The Imitation Game" during the 58th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square on October 8, 201

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2014 Getty Images

The film has already been described as "Oscar bait" after winning the People's Choice Award at Toronto Film Festival last month. The prize is seen as a key indicator of Oscar success, with three recent winners in Toronto – 12 Years a Slave, The King's Speech and Slumdog Millionaire – going on to win the Best Picture Academy Award.

However, the Daily Telegraph's Tim Robey is not convinced Cumberbatch is a dead cert for a gong. "Post-Sherlock, the star's natural intelligence is a gift but no longer a surprise, and his work here, entirely committed and clever though it is, feels so customised for awards voters to coo over, it may inspire rebellious thoughts."

    • The Imitation Game will hit cinemas on November 14.

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