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The Imitation Game (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game


Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Charles Dance, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Allen Leech, Rory Kinnear, James Northcote, Tom Goodman-Hill, Steven Waddington, Ilan Goodman, Jack Tarlton, Alex Lawther, Tuppence Middleton and Jack Bannon.

Screenplay by Graham Moore.

Directed by Morten Tyldum.

Distributed by The Weinstein Company. 113 minutes. Rated PG-13.

The world is full of people who accomplished great things whose names are barely known.

Take Alan Turing.

Now considered the father of modern computing, as well as being the man who was able to break a secret Nazi code which significantly shortened World War II, his name is barely remembered. Part of it is due to the extreme secrecy with which he lived his life. His work with the British military was of course top secret. Add to that the fact that he was also a gay man at a time when that was literally illegal, so his personal life was also shrouded and secretive for fear of jail.

He died at 41 years old of suicide, a broken, forgotten, disgraced man.

However, The Imitation Game helps to restore his name and give him some of the credit that he deserves for his many accomplishments.

In fact, in fairness, the film may even give him a bit too much credit – he did not actually physically create the quasi-computer “Christopher” which broke the Nazi’s Enigma code. However, this is a bio-pic, not a documentary, and after 50 years of unwarranted shame and obscurity, perhaps the guy deserves a bit of excessive praise for his intellect and his work.

As played by Brit actor du jour Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek Into Darkness), Turing is intellectually brilliant and socially inept. In fact, it appears that he may very well have had Asperger’s syndrome.

He is a man who can’t understand people but is a master of puzzles. When he hears that the Nazis have a new machine coding called The Enigma code, he takes it as an intellectual challenge to create a machine which will be able to crack this unbreakable puzzle. While his co-workers spend their days trying to decode by hand, Turing works on a very rudimentary computer to try and figure everything out.

Because of his aloofness and his certainty that he is always right, Turing is not trusted by either his co-workers or his superiors. The only one who really trusts him is Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), a woman who was arguably even smarter than him, but relegated to minor tasks because she is a woman in a man’s world.

To protect their positions – he as a homosexual man in a country where that was illegal, her as a smart working woman whose parents find it more proper for her to be a wife and mother – Turing and Clarke entered into a chaste, but loving engagement. While Clarke did not know for a fact he was gay, she was not particularly surprised when she did find out.

The story is mostly told in flashback, several years later after the events. Turing had been robbed by a young pickup, and though he does not want the police to investigate, they quickly become determined that he has something to hide. The policeman starts looking into his military days, because his records are oddly classified and redacted. Instead of finding a spy, he is disappointed that his investigation uncovers that Turing was gay, a fact that the policeman himself had no interest in prosecuting.

The tragic end days of a special mind make this film a sad reminder of a time not so long ago when tolerance was not the rule. You have to wonder what more Alan Turing may have done had he not gotten caught up in this trap.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2015 All rights reserved. Posted: January 30, 2015.

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