Wednesday, 31 December 2014


Roadshow Films

Set during World War II, Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game could just have easily have been made in 1940s Britain. With its humour in the face of adversity, good old chaps and stiff upper lip-ness, it's not so much a period drama as an anachronism.

Of course, the word homosexual would not have even been uttered in a 1940s film let alone repeated as often as it is here. For Alan Turing was a homosexual, but that's rather by-the-by in The Imitation Game which is more concerned with how Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), an odd duck mathematical genius, along with some fellow eggheads, cracked the German's Enigma code and helped end the war.

Most of the drama in The Imitation Game takes place at Bletchley Park, the top secret military base where Britain's brightest have been gathered to intercept and decode German intel, but it is framed by the story of Turing's life before and after the war: firstly at middle school where his peculiar ways already had him targeted by bullies but befriended by a sympathetic peer, Christopher; and after, in 1954, where a police investigation into a robbery at Turing's home -- the bobby suspects him as a Soviet spy -- uncovers his sexual leanings (homosexuality being a criminal offence in 1950s England).

But The Imitation Game has no time for sex, homo or otherwise: there's a war to be won; focussing its attentions on the team in Turing's so-called Hut 8 -- his fellow code-crackers played by Matthew Goode, Allen Leech and Matthew Beard -- and his efforts to build a machine that will crack the German's code, one which is re-set each day at midnight.

It's in these moments the film builds some tension but overall, The Imitation Game is a perfectly average film. And that's somewhat of a surprise, not just because of the hype and awards love preceding its release (which, granted, is no testament to a film's quality) but also because director Tyldum's previous film, Headhunters (2011), was a bat shit crazy heist-gone-wrong thriller which was anything but average.

But whether playing it safe with an English language film, a bigger budget, or merely hemmed in by Graham Moore's screenplay (adapted from Andrew Hodges's book), Tyldum keeps everything moving along smoothly without any directorial distinction at all.

Not surprisingly performances are uniformly good, including those of Mark Strong and Charles Dance as impressed and infuriated Bletchley authority figures, respectively. Fine, too, is Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, who, for a brief time, was engaged to Turing but more importantly, was one of the women who played a key role in those events at Bletchley Park (though the film would have us believe Clarke was little more than a fag hag with a knack for crossword puzzles).

The film's coda reveals what happened to Turing after his arrest but does so over a celebratory scene of he and his fellow code-crackers rejoicing in their success. Sure a gay man who helped end the war two years earlier than anticipated, saving countless thousands of lives in the process, was harshly treated by his own government because of his sexuality and killed himself as a result, but hey, we won the war.

Besides, the Queen eventually pardoned the guy (in December 2013, thank you very much), and we now get to enjoy computers thanks to Turing's brilliance. Good one, Alan!

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