The Imitation Game — The Man Who Achieved the ‘Impossible’
The World is still trying to come to terms with the achievements of Alan Turing. He was a brilliant mathematician and scientist, who spearheaded Britain’s efforts during the World War II in decoding the Nazi’s complex ‘Enigma’ machine. In the process of cracking the code, Turing gave us the first machine that could be called as ‘computer’. Many historians believe that if not for the code-breaking skills of Turing & his team, the war would have dragged on for few more years. Yet, the accomplishments of Turing were kept a top secret for the next few decades. He lived alone and persecuted for his identity as a homosexual (when such things were considered illegal). His own government punished him with chemical castration, and he eventually committed suicide in 1954 (at the age of 41).
Alan Turing’s biography (written by Alan Hodges) was first published in the year 1983 and was steadily updated since then. Only in 2009, Britain’s former Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized (on behalf of government) for the way Turing was treated. Ever since the publication of Hodge’s book, there have been several attempts in making a biopic. However, Morten Tyldum’s “The Imitation Game” (2014) has got to be the most efficient of all the Turing biopic. It has taken liberties as all the ‘Based on True Story’ flicks do, and has brought us an engaging drama about a very complex man.
Although the movie is dramatized, Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) isn’t portrayed as the heroic figure. He is just shown as a confident, socially awkward guy who is more interested in breaking the puzzles than the politics. As ‘Enigma’ is the world’s greatest puzzle at the time, he wanted to have a go at it. The military officers balked at Turing peculiar behavior, but a top-level secret agent Menzies (Mark Strong) recognizes his genius and places him with a small code-breaking team that works secretly in a radio factory. There, he builds a machine and struggles to cracks the Nazi’s code.
Although Turing’s story doesn’t have the sense of urgency we usually find in WWII movies, thanks to screen writer Graham Moore, the story always moves like a thriller. The first-time screen writer entwines three narrative strands that include Alan as a schoolboy, bullied by his classmates; the 1951 police investigation for his homosexuality; and his Herculean efforts during the war, trying to break Enigma. These strands are elegantly mixed up so that at each turn we discover something new about Turing.
Turing’s tale is also laced with tragedy and this aspect is wonderfully displayed by Cumberbatch’s humanistic performance. He perfectly blends Turing’s self-confidence, arrogance, tactlessness and shyness. Keira Knightley plays Joan Clarke, who was the only woman in Turing’s team and also became his close friend. Joan is a crucial thread in the story as she serves as disguise for Turing’s homo-sexuality and also teaches his to be charming enough for reaching out to his fellow code-breakers.
Yet, the movie isn’t entirely devoid of cliches of usual ‘big moment’ cliches that we find in such biopics. Charles’ Dance military officer character is contrived as an obstructionist, who didn’t get Turing’s genius. He provides a timeline for imbuing tick-tock suspense. In order to create some huge emotional weight, the writer puts a code-breaker’s sibling on a suddenly doomed battleship. The film also said to have skimmed over Turing’s post-war works. Turing’s homosexual relationships aren’t brought to center stage, like his relationship with Joan since that could have challenged the PG-13 rating. Still, such platitude and incomplete portrayal doesn’t bring down the significance of this biopic. Director Tyldum does a good balancing act by exploring both the character traits of a complex man and the dramatic twists in his life.
“The Imitation Game” (114 minutes) is a compassionately told inspirational tale of a genius who was crushed by hypocrisy and prejudice. It’s one of the most engaging dramas of this awards season.