THE IMITATION GAME: REVIEW – Maths boffin Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) invents the computer, wins World War Two and escapes marriage with Keira Knightley.
The problem with posthumous fame is you’re f*cking dead. Turing was a genius, a genuine innovator and thinker whose ability to solve problems was instrumental in cracking the Enigma code and bringing the war to an early close, saving millions of lives. It is difficult to overstate his achievements, especially in a society which chooses to deify a marketing wonk like Steve Jobs. Of course, he didn’t expect a medal, such is the nature of espionage and he knew the territory. The secrecy continued because MI6 carefully captured as many Enigma machines as it could following the war and doled them out to allies who – unaware that the code had been broken – used them for sensitive communications to the delight of MI6. Turing’s lack of fame was turned to infamy when he was charged with gross indecency – homosexuality – (BTW can we appropriate ‘gross indecency’; I like the ring of it) and offered the choice of two years in jail or chemical castration. His death soon after was shrouded in some suspicion – was he bumped off, or was it suicide? One way or another there has been a lingering sense of injustice, that a man who gave so much to his country was let down by that same country.
No Google doodle can redress such wrong, nor even the royal pardon he received from Queen Elizabeth II (and doesn’t a pardon still recognize the legitimacy of the unjust law?), but what about a Benedict Cumberbatch movie?
Well, first of this is a handsomely made, well acted and entertaining drama in on-going series to show how Great Britain won the war, overcoming speech impediments, social embarrassment and floppy hair along the way. It’s like The King’s Speech with hard sums. Cumberbatch is proving himself the genuine article, a fine character actor and Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, as a colleague and confidant, is not annoying! Matthew Goode as the more socially able boffin Hugh Alexander. It’s a pity that Charles Dance’s Admiral Dennison becomes the villain, considering he also was responsible for facilitating the success of the code-breakers and the antagonism is an invention of the filmmakers. More seriously, an invented subplot featuring Soviet mole John Cairncross is poorly thought out. Cairncross never worked with Turing and the suggestion that Turing knew of his activity both does a gross disservice to Turing (making him in effect party to treachery) and enforcing the prejudice that homosexuals are open to just such blackmail and therefore shouldn’t be employed in the service of the country.
These objections are not trivial, especially for a man who was so maligned and shabbily treated. However, that said,
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