THE IMITATION GAME

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MOVIE REVIEW: THE IMITATION GAME / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: MORTEN TYLDUM / SCREENPLAY: GRAHAM MOORE / STARRING: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, MATTHEW GOODE, CHARLES DANCE, MARK STRONG / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

The Imitation Game gives us a chance to absorb the story of Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) and how he led the way to solving the German Enigma code in World War II.

The film, based on Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, centres on Turing’s time at Bletchley Park with the code-breakers and spells out how hard it was to build, then tune, the machine that would eventually break the code. It also tells the wider story of his homosexuality, persecution and eventual suicide in the early 1950s. To give more depth to his character, there are also sequences set in his very British public school with a young Turing (Alex Lawther).

The story is told in a collection of moments, some of which come together well, others are provided as dots for the viewer to join in their own heads. Apart from Turing, there are several key characters; blinkered, regimented Commander Denniston (Dance); brilliant Cambridge mathematician Joan Clarke (Knightley); MI6 agent Maj Gen Menzies (Strong); and 1950s policeman Detective Nook (Rory Kinnear). A narrative is presented that gives a sense of how Turing’s personality traits (as portrayed he would be labelled as autistic in some sense) were allowed to run unchecked and were reinforced by his schooldays. There are also plenty of scenes of wooden huts, bombings, tube station bomb shelters and much else to make sure we understand the wider context of war.

The tale is also told with simple brush strokes when it covers other periods in Turing’s life, from lots of stiff upper lips at school, to one-dimensionally bigoted police officers in the early 1950s. This is where the film suffers – in seeking to tell the whole story of Turing and his mistreatment, it presents lots of material but takes no perspective. Although Turing is the focus, we learn nothing about his internal landscape beyond some measure of conflict in his relationship with Joan (who he proposes marriage to at one stage). He knows he is different on many levels and sexuality is one of these. He neither justifies nor defends this – indeed the most powerful relationship as presented on screen is that with his machine.

If the film came off the fence, there are stronger stories to tell with this material. The story of Joan Clarke dealing with prejudice against women, her struggle to have her great intelligence recognised, her marriage and her fascination with the genius of Alan Turing would be interesting and Knightley more than capable of evincing this. There is also a very powerful story to be told about Detective Nook, who suspects that behind his homosexuality there is a much deeper story about Turing, the War, and (erroneously) the Cambridge spies. How Nook discovers the truth while dealing with the simple prejudices of his contemporaries would be a good way to explore the story of Turing, though perhaps more suited to television.

Overall this is a film packed with content and strong performances from many, even if their characters never really get to grips with the film’s journey. The final measure of the quality and power of the story is the audience – when the packed cinema collectively sits in silence for thirty seconds as the film’s credits roll, then leaves in subdued conversation, that is a sign of the impact this film has on the viewer.

Expected Rating: 7 out of 10

Actual Rating:
 

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