The Imitation Game is no pretender: this film is real. Based on real events and real issues, it has real interest and is truly moving.
The main focus of the film is Bletchley Park from the late 1930s to early 1940s, where a top secret military intelligence operation is being carried out to try to crack the German Enigma code. In doing so, the Allies hope to win World War Two by being able to interpret coded German military messages and beat them to the punch, as it were.
Enter Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) the self-proclaimed best Mathematician in Britain, but not a prodigy in comparison to the likes of Einstein and Newton, according to Alan. The socially inept, but intellectually brilliant man who sets to work on creating a machine, which he names Christopher, to decrypt the German code. He has more of an emotional connection with Christopher than he does with any human, and as his childhood is revealed through flashbacks throughout the film, the reason why is deeply touching.
You may not think that a film essentially about maths equations and cryptology could be described as a thriller, but this film had more suspense and tension than nearly any other film I’ve seen this year. Thanks to brilliant acting from Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley and a great screenplay by Thomas Moore, Turing’s story is brought to life on screen with guts and guile, but also empathy. You can visibly see Turing’s inner struggles written all over Cumberbatch’s face: his frustration and determination not to be beaten, by his colleagues or Enigma.
Turing is reluctantly recruited by Commander Dennis (Charles Dance as a typical Charles Dance character) to the team at Bletchley. Turing loves solving puzzles, and Enigma is the hardest puzzle on the planet. In fact, he uses a crossword puzzle to test new recruits, one of whom is Keira Knightley’s character, Joan Clarke. Although social norms being what they were, it was not approved for her to work alongside men, so Turing sneaks into her room to deliver information for her to decipher between her shifts working on site at Bletchely.
The Imitation Game is great at championing the underdog: Alan; a gay man, Joan ; a woman and to some extent, the. British at that time during the war. There is a great moment when Joan goes to sit the recruitment test for Bletchley cryptologists and the man on the door tried to turn her away. He tries to redirect her to the secretarial interviews, simply because she is a woman. Of course, once she clarifies she is in fact at the right recruitment test, she completes the test faster than every man in the room, and surprises even Turing. Girl power.
Unfortunately, Turing’s sexuality is not championed, as homosexuality was illegal until 1967. The film periodically flashes forward to the 1950s when Alan comes under investigation for his homosexuality while living in Manchester. This segment of the film is shocking and upsetting. It’s horrible to think that until a mere 50 years ago it was illegal to be gay in this country. Despite all Turing’s efforts, which essentially won us the war thanks to intercepting German intelligence via Chrisptopher, he was shunned by his country and pushed to committing suicide. It was only last year he received a posthumous pardon from the Queen.
In fact, the facts about Turing’s legacy that roll at the end of the film, laid over images of Turing celebrating with Judy and his colleagues and accompanied by beautifully moving music (I expect the score will be up for nomination a the Oscars, or at least the BAFTAs) was the most upsetting part of the film.
Alan Turing says, “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” Conversely, I imagined this film would reveal great things, but it exceeded how brilliant I imagined it was going to be. Go and see this film, now.