Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Alex Lawther, Rory Kinnear
Directed By: Morten Tyldum
Written By: Graham Moore
Rating: PG-13 (US) Running Time: 1 hr 54 min
The actual imitation game, is also known as the Turing Test. A method devised by the late Alan Turing, to determine a computer’s ability to think. A judge asks a human being and a computer to answer a set of questions. Doing so via a text only exchange, and the responses are compared to see how indistinguishable the computer’s responses are from a humans. It’s a test I believe, Turing might actual fail, based on the depiction of his life and work in the film, The Imitation Game.
Turing possessed a genius level intellect, thought like a computer, and had no clue how to interact with people. He’s actually quite unlikable, so asking the audience to accept this character, and empathize with his plight, requires a good script, and a really touching and nuanced portrayal from Benedict Cumberbatch. An award worthy performance, that presents this complex arrogant character, but does so in a way that subtlety betrays his weaknesses and draws the viewer in.
This film is as much about Turing’s ground breaking work, and how it saved millions of lives and cut short World War II. As it is about who we determine ‘human’, and how we choose to treat people we don’t fully understand. A beautifully written piece, that communicates the difficulties we sometimes have feeling empathy for other people’s differences, as much as Turing had understanding the people around him. It’s a powerful message, subtlety delivered, and I hope everyone in the packed theater I was in understood it. Especially those people, who still hold on to illogical fears and would to this day, still argue for limiting the rights of other people, simply because they are a minority.
Alan Turing was a homosexual man. He kept his true nature a secret because being gay was illegal. Despite that, he used his considerable intellect to invent a device that cut short World War II, and saved an estimated 14 million lives. As a reward for his work, he was convicted of indecency, and offered a choice of two years in prison or chemical castration. He chose the later so he could continue his work. That was in 1952. In 1954, just 16 days before his 42nd birthday, Alan Turing was found dead. Ruled a suicide by cyanide poisoning.
Shocking right? It’s perhaps even more shocking that it took the UK government 65 years to officially apologize (after an internet campaign, the irony), and another 4 years before he was granted a posthumous pardon from Queen Elizabeth II. In 2014, 102 years after Alan Turing’s birth, the number of countries that still consider homosexuality illegal is disgusting. In some countries it’s punishable by death.
The Imitation Game does a great job of exposing a huge injustice, as well as make a meaningful statement about women and equal rights through a nice supporting turn by Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke. An equality brilliant person, forced to work secretly with Turing because she was the wrong sex. It delivers its important message in a way that never comes across as angry or confrontational, and it doesn’t try to directly challenge the audience on the issue of homosexuality. Some might say that was a mistake, even cowardly, but I believe the film’s carrot over the stick approach is a more effective way to reach people who are still unsure how they feel about this subject. Morten Tyldum’s unfussy direction of Graham Moore’s excellent script, combined with a moving central performance from Benedict Cumberbatch, empowers the audience to make their own conclusions. It doesn’t demand change, but simply asks for a fair appraisal based on the facts.
If you appreciate well written and acted period dramas, this is must see. This isn’t a film about homosexuality per se, but simply a depiction of a hugely important development during World War II. It delivers an important message, but doesn’t beat you over the head with its agenda.
This is beautifully shot film, so I recommend a matinée show while the film is still in the theaters. At home, a HD rental for a TV screening is the way to go. The film’s impact will be reduced on anything portable.
Best Moment: << mild spoiler >>
I was really impressed with Alex Lawther, who plays the younger Alan Turing in the film. The scene where he’s told his close friend, Christopher, has died, is a great moment in the movie. As he’s clearly distraught on hearing this news, but knows he can’t show his true feelings for fear of his homosexuality being discovered.