The Imitation Game (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 114 minutes.
OK for children.
Alan Turing was a genius
who was on the ground floor of the computer revolution, some say he was
the father of our computerized world, four decades before his time. He
created a machine that could break the German code created by the Enigma
machine. In so doing, he created what was probably the first computer.
This film tells the
story of Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his small coterie of
researchers, including Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) and Hugh Alexander
(Matthew Goode), who labored in London’s Bletchley Park during World War
II. Directed by Morten Tyldum (a Norwegian who directed the outstanding
Headhunters for which he received a 2012 BAFTA nomination) from a
script by Graham Moore, based on the book, Alan Turing: The Enigma
by Andrew Hodges, it was shot in the short space of eight weeks in
England. One location was the former home of James Bond creator Ian
script has some incidents in it of dubious veracity. It purloins the
story of Winston Churchill refusing to take action against a German air
raid on Coventry in 1940 because to take action would alert the Germans
that the British had broken the code, and transfers it to Turing’s group
when Turing refuses to warn a convoy it is about to be attacked for the
same reason. It’s made more personal because one of Turing’s researchers
has a brother on one of the ships in the convoy (what an amazing
coincidence!). This clumsy and unnecessary scene lessened the
verisimilitude of the film because it was so unlikely to have actually
Another Hollywood ploy
is the way Turing finds the key to breaking the code. It’s such a
hackneyed “Eureka!” Hollywood moment that it lacks credibility and is an
obvious plot device that really isn’t needed. From what I can find out
nothing like this actually happened. Hollywood is always looking for
that one cinematic moment, but those moments of inspiration rarely
exist, reminiscent of Thomas Edison’s comment on finding the solution to
the electric light, during which he tried 2,000 times before he found
something that would work. There was no “Eureka!” moment. It was, said
Edison, “a 2,000 step process.” Hollywood diminishes the time-consuming,
detailed work Turing did by putting in moments like this.
The acting is very good.
Cumberbatch gives a fine performance as a gay man in a country where
homosexuality was a crime. Knightley also gives her usual captivating
performance, although not much is asked of her. But, even so, she lights
up the screen. Goode is also effective.
Two technical aspects
add immensely to the film. The production design (Maria Djurkovic) and
cinematography (Óscar Faura) transpose the audience into the bygone era
seven decades ago.
This is a good story
leading up to what happened to Turing in 1952, seven years after the war
ended, and it doesn’t need trite plot devices invented by a screenwriter
to make it work.