Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly team up to decode the infamous Nazi code Enigma and win WWII — movies don’t get much better than that. “The Imitation Game,” now playing at the Gallatin Valley Cinemas, follows the tale of Alan Turing. Brilliantly performed by Cumberbatch, Turing was a Cambridge math whiz who played a large role in the development of computer technology and is regarded as one of the most important pioneers in the field.
After developing a unique and brilliant machine that cracks the unbreakable Enigma code, which significantly contributed to shortening the war, Turing was betrayed by his own country when he was convicted of “gross indecency” (homosexuality) and forced to take hormonal medication that chemically castrated him. Homosexuality was made illegal in Britain with the Buggery Act of 1533 and remained so until 1967, and, according to the BBC’s web page on Turing, homosexual men were forced to choose between such castration and jail. The film sheds light on the injustice that Turing was dealt and comes just after a posthumous pardon in 2013 for the man behind the brilliance.
With a non-linear timeline, the story reveals itself through three settings: Turing being investigated after the war, his childhood at a boarding school and at the top secret facility Bletchley Park during the war. These elements all complement each other and give the audience context and understanding.
Other aspects of the film, however, were handled less well, including its use of stock footage. Clips of world events and the Nazis interrupted the plot rather than transitioning and resembled a bad History Channel show. The score by Alexendre Desplat was also a bit boring and cliché which barely contributed to the overall experience.
The storyline also heavily focuses on the paranoia of Soviet spies and infiltration, which is completely inaccurate with what really happened. The film portrays Turing’s team single-handedly cracking the Enigma, and that it was the reason the Allies were victorious. While Turing was undoubtedly a brilliant man, the device he helped design was in collaboration with Gordon Welchman, who is not even mentioned in the film. According to Bletchley Park’s website, the machine was also an improvement from an earlier Polish design.
One of the main sources of conflict in the film is between Turing and his superiors. The naval officer in charge of the project is looking for every excuse to shut Turing out of the process. This could not be further from the truth. Commander Denison was eager to hire Turing and gave the large team at Bletchley Park all the resources they needed.
Cumberbatch executes, with near perfection, a socially awkward and arrogant Turing who prefers to work alone and does not fit in with most company. Some critics have noted that while this greatly contributed to this film, the real Turing by most accounts was a fun-loving and eccentric personality who worked well with his peers.
Even though many of the details and plot themes are fictionalized or even completely fabricated, The Imitation Game is a great movie that puts the spotlight on one of the most important pioneers in the computer age. This goes perfectly in the ever growing list of unique and well done WWII movies and belongs on the shelf with “Fury” and “Unbroken.”