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03 December 2014 @ 03:17 pm
Film Review: The Imitation Game  
A biopic about Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician and cryptologist starring Benedict Cumerbath, Kiera Knightly, Charles Dance, and Matthew Goode.

Alan Turing as yet to have a good film made about him. And it's a shame considering how much I feel like he still doesn't get the proper he deserves nor is there enough recognition about what the country he worked so hard to help win the war did to him because of his sexual orientation. I had a lot of hopes that The Imitation Game would finally be able to give us that and in some ways I think the film did set out with those goals and sort of met them in a rather unsatisfactory way.

Months leading up to the film's release, a lot of negative speculation surrounded it. One, that the film would somehow romanticize Turing's platonic relationship with Joan Clarke with the casting of Kiera Knightly and two, that Turing would be portrayed as a traitor after word got out that the film depicts him letting a spy go free after said spy blackmails him. After watching the film I can say that no, Turing and Clarke are not as all depicted as having a relationship beyond that of close colleagues. And yes, while Turing is blackmailed by the spy, the scene didn't translate to me as Turing being a willful traitor. So that's good. But the lack of emotional response I had to that moment illustrated what felt wrong about the movie.

Despite a devoted performance from Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, the script gives us absolutely nothing in terms of who Turing is a human being. He feels more like a caricature of what you might imagine a closeted math genius would be like: antisocial, standoffish, prone to unexpected fits. Turing was a hero who built the machine that literally changed the course of a major world war. He was later chemically castrated because of his homosexuality and eventually committed suicide by ingesting cyanide. His previous biographers speculated that he took the cyanide through a poisoned apple, enacting a scene from Snow White. Nothing in this film's portrayal of Turing connects me to the person who ended his life in such a way. The film does an unequivocally fine job in taking the stance that what happened to Turing was immoral. However, Turing's story unfortunately comes across the screen as the horrendous treatment endured by all gay men during that time rather than the treatment being a part of the greater Turing story, if that makes sense. I could connect to the message that treatment of gay men back then was awful but I couldn't connect to Alan Turing which was a problem.

I could fault the actor's performance but I don't think Cumberbatch had much to work with in giving us more depth to Turing. Even if we had a better look at Turing's life before the war began, it would have helped give context to his current emotional state. We learn that Turing fell in love with a boy back as a younger man and eventually he names the code breaker machine after him. That felt huge and yet because we got close to zero information about this love, the gesture fades into something superficial. It's like the film insinuates there's a living, breathing, feeling human beneath Turing's protective reserved exterior but we're never given a chance to really see it that person.

While the film fulfilled my hopes of truly illustrating the horrible treatment Turing was given, I wished the movie treated his character with more dimension than just Alan Turing: Brilliant Code Breaker and Alan Turing: Closeted Gay Man. These are broad strokes and the Wikipedia version of someone who was clearly much more complex than that.
tommycruisestommy50702 on January 19th, 2015 05:45 am (UTC)
I agree with you. The Imitation Game at least gives viewers a good introduction to Turing and the race to decode Enigma, an operation so secret that all documentation was destroyed.