Photo credit: Optimum Screenings
Based on a true story, the Imitation Game follows a group of men and one woman (played by Keira Knightley) who set out to crack the German coded messages during World War II. Acting wise, the film is almost flawless. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as mathematic genius Alan Turing is truly mesmerising. He captures the poignancy of Turing’s life, intermingling his social awkwardness with his confident charm. His performance is sensitive and compelling; Cumberbatch is even thought to be in with the chance of an Oscar nomination. Arguably, what is most important about this brilliant piece of acting is the recognition it gives this real war hero. Turing was the key figure in the breaking of the German enigma code but his life came to a tragic end when he was arrested for homosexual acts (a criminal offence in 1952). He was offered the choice of going to prison or enduring injections of oestrogen for a year, which were intended to suppress his homosexual tendencies. However, he committed suicide in 1954. The eccentric cryptanalyst who saved England from the war was rewarded with cruelty and injustice. As fitting tribute, Cumberbatch deftly represents the suffering that Turing had to undergo.
The film deals with a myriad of themes (sexuality, social acceptance, mathematics, science, war…) and manages to cleverly combine these ideas into a complex structure. The film flashes between scenes from Turing’s childhood, his time at Bletchley and his interrogation in a police station – allowing the pace and sense of urgency to effectively build.
In terms of historical accuracy, the film is less strong. Knightley is quick to point this out in interviews, acknowledging that lots of the finer details were changed for the film. For example, Turing did not really name his great machine ‘Christopher’; screenplay writer Graham Moore simply thought that this would make a nice touch. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of poetic license though. The details might not all be entirely accurate but the film remains true to the general events that occurred and is, at times, painfully gripping. It is inspirational, fast-paced and uplifting, giving voice to one of the most extraordinary men in history. A voiceover of Turing’s dulcet tones frames the beginning and end of the film: ‘Are you paying attention?’. We certainly are.