Before seeing The Imitation Game there were not many who knew about Alan Turing’s story and that is a shame. We humans need to be reminded of the grave mistakes we have made if there is any hope that we are not going to repeat them. While we are awful to the planet we live on and animals we are most despicable to our own kind. Our need for superiority and power has led to things like war and persecution of other humans because we have labelled them different or deviant. This is a film in which you can watch and learn much about perseverance and how our fear of the other has led us to commit atrocities.
Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch – Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) was one of the brightest scientists and mathematicians of the last century and yet society’s mistreatment of him because he was a homosexual led to him being forced into chemical castration and a subsequently suicide. A tragedy that could have easily been avoided and a brilliant mind that would have gone on to invent who knows what else that would have benefitted mankind. Not a leap as he was the man who invented a machine that was the forefather of the modern day computer.
During the early days of World War II England and much of the rest of Europe was being bombarded and invaded by the Nazis. MI6 (British Secret Service) and the British Navy was looking for a way to get an upper hand in the fight. It was decided that deciphering the claimed to be unbreakable Enigma (German code making machine) code would be the key. As a result Naval Commander Denniston (Charles Dance – Alien, Gosford Park) and MI6 agent Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong – Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass) put together some of the best and brightest code breakers in England to work in a radio factory in Bletchley Park.
Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode – Watchmen, Match Point) is put in charge of a group made up of John Cairncross (Allen Leech – from television’s Downton Abbey), Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard – An Education, One Day), Jack Good (James Northcote – Belle, Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1), and Alan Turing. Alan never really works as part of the group as he goes about doing his own thing and building a code breaking machine. Despite his social awkwardness he is able to convince British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to make him the leader of the group.
Alan does things differently than Hugh did. First of all he sets about hiring a woman – Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley – Begin Again, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). Though she, due to her parents’ thinking, is not able to move to London to work with a group of men, so Joan actually only works officially in the secretary pool. Joan, who ends up engaged to Alan despite the fact that he is gay, is able to not only help Alan work out the development of the machine, but give him some tips on how to get people to like him.
Part of the enjoyment of the film, a solid historical drama, is if you go into knowing next to nothing about Alan Turing. Despite the fact that he made one of the most important accomplishments of the 20th century because of the fact that he was persecuted by the British legal system due to the fact that he was a gay man resulted in a cover up by the British government until very recently.
Most of it is due to the fact that it is a film that only the British could do. It has a seriousness and yet biting wit to it that the Brits have perfected. This despite the fact that the director, Morten Tyldum (Headhunters), is Norwegian. The all British cast really rise up to the challenge of portraying these complex characters. Even Knightley, who is not one of my favourite actresses, turns in a solid performance. The true star is the marvellous Cumberbatch. He bears the heavy burden of making us care about this odd and sometimes unlikable complex man. Cumberbatch is a success and as such keeps us riveted to the story unfolding on the screen.