Monday, 8 December 2014

The Imitation Game

Benedict at Bletchley

Oscar bait rarely arrives in a more worthy or sentimental package. Of all war stories, that of code-breaking mathematician Alan Turing is perhaps the most unusual. In his competent performance as the precocious prodigy, Benedict Cumberbatch implores the Academy to recognise this most plucky and tragic of tales from modern history. Current rumours suggest that the LA glitterati might be besotted by this very British fare of a maverick genius. As of yet, however, few commentators seem to have noticed how strikingly similar it is to the BBC's Sherlock.

Without getting overly excited, The Imitation Game is a deserving film which carries an awful lot of emotional baggage. As a closet homosexual, Turing was treated appallingly by the British authorities when, in fact, he should have been celebrated as a national hero. Sadly for this unconventional man, his greatest triumphs were carried out in total secrecy, ruining any hope of proper recognition during his own lifetime. At least with this cinematic venture, the British public can say they have finally 'done right' by one of its greatest minds.

Although fluttering between its subject's youth and final years, this straightforward biopic primarily focusses on Bletchley Park and the extraordinary work which was accomplished there. It was in this unassuming locale that the allegedly 'unbreakable' German Enigma code was deciphered by Turing's computerised machine. By breaking the codes, Britain turned the tide of the war in its favour, laying the death knell of the Third Reich in the process.

Despite collecting a cast of esteemed screen actors, such as Matthew Goode, Keira Knightley and Mark Strong, the story fails to acknowledge the contribution of other characters in the painstaking work at GCHQ. We are given the impression that Turing worked alone - facing stark hostility amongst his peers - to achieve a unique brilliance against the odds. With that in mind, the theme of teamwork which the film tries to convey falls down, fulfilling nothing more than a tokenistic nod to the collaboration which made Britain's codebreaking effort so effective.

In a similar vein, this perennial focus on the individual distracts from the unique environment of wartime Bletchley. For a more insightful take on the culture within this hectic, thriving and suffocatingly secretive hubbub of nerdy endeavour, you would be better off reading Robert Harris' novel Engima.

Nevertheless, Turing remains a fascinating figure. Indeed, as time and attitudes continue to progress, he should become a more significant inspiration in people's minds. Cumberbatch captures his uneasy, asperger-like sensibilities, portraying him as a lost but ultimately likable soul. Oscar or no Oscar, his depiction is a cause for applause, if not quite wholesome adulation.


No comments:

Post a Comment