Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.
“Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine”
** This review contains mild spoilers if you don’t know about Turing’s story **
From every angle the Imitation Game is an incredible movie and one of the best I’ve ever watched. It managed to be everything at once; a movie portraying the effects of WWII on Britain, the story of Enigma and Turing’s brilliant machine, and the biography of Alan Turing. It is an excellent work of historical fiction, that is in fact mostly true; only a few things were altered for the purpose of the movie. It tells a story that remained untold for so long because the government hid it for fifty years.
Setting aside all that for a moment, even if it were all made up, from a purely cinematic point of view the movie boasts stellar pacing, hard-hitting emotional content, brilliantly constructed characters and dialogue. The movie is set up as a story within a story that almost feels like metafiction. Though the plot mainly follows the adult Turing from his first day at Bletchely to the end of the war, it also jumps backwards and forwards in time to give you a greater perspective of Turing’s life. The movie also incorporates real clips of Hitler invading Europe and pulls back frequently to show you the Blitz both from the ground and the sky.
The Turing presented in The Imitation Game struggles to interact with people because as he points out “when people talk to each other, they never say what they mean. They say something else and you’re expected to just know what they mean.” He comes off as arrogant and rude to his teammates. Yet, from the perspective of the audience, he garners a lot of sympathy, but more importantly respect. Honestly, one of the best constructed characters I’ve seen. He suffers from the fate of most geniuses – he is too bright to be normal. We don’t really know much about the real Alan Turing but from what I’ve read he clearly was odd. Contrary to the criticism, I think the movie gains much by portraying him in the way they did rather than as a ‘normal’ man and they were most definitely not trying to slap a label on him. The major message of the movie was to celebrate differences and understand how much can be gained from being unique. Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting was unreal and truly made the movie by bringing such a complex character to life.
What happens to him at the end of the movie is absolutely disgusting and destroys your faith in humankind. The poor police officer whose curiosity and hopes to uncover a Communist plot reveals how a small innocent act can lead to a devastating chain of events. How could it have possibly been illegal to be homosexual? And after all he did, could no one have stepped in? He built a computer and cracked an unbreakable code. He shortened the war by at least two years and saved countless lives. How much more would he have been able to do had his life not been cut tragically short? His sexuality is present throughout the entire movie but it never plays a major role; the movie chooses instead to focus on Turing and his achievements, making it smack you in the face even more at the end. I honestly feel for him and all the other people who were persecuted who never even received a pardon.
Parallel to Turing’s struggles are struggles on a smaller scale. Of Joan, the only women in Hut 8’s fight for equality. She becomes Turing’s friend because as outsiders they understand each other. The movie spends time on their relationship and their friendship was in fact a large part of Turing’s life.
Please watch this movie or do some research and learn about this incredible and also incredibly heartbreaking story.