Imitation Game

imitationOne more down from the Oscars list. I loved Imitation Game but I doubt it will win Best Picture over Birdman or Boyhood.

I rarely read reviews of a film until after I’ve seen it and I’ve written down my own thoughts. Post-watch I expected and was not disappointed to see so many reviews on IMDb from viewers criticizing this film for historical inaccuracies. As always, ‘based on events’ does not mean faithful recreation of events. Besides, its a film, not a history lesson, so unclench and enjoy it for what it is.

Alan Turing is well-known to anyone like me who survived  Mathematics and Computer Science degrees at university. Largely he is credited with creating the foundations of computing, specifically artificial intelligence. It didn’t surprise  the nerd in me that he was involved with scaling up the crackdown on the Enigma code used by German intelligence during WW2. Historians loosely quantify his team’s efforts as saving millions of lives and probably ending the war several years earlier.

What most people don’t know, and they definitely didn’t teach in my curriculum, was that Turing was gay. Here in 2015, people just nod, yawn and rapidly move along when hearing that bit of innocuous detail. But in his day of the 50’s and before, it was unacceptable. Even after his obvious contributions, the British government arrested him on ‘indecency’ and chemically castrated him. His death, shortly thereafter, was officially deemed a suicide but alternate theories still fly. It was nice of QE2 to give Turing a pardon in 2013, some 60 years afterwards.

Imitation Game is part WW2 espionage and part character study of Turing. Yes, there are some details omitted but I think including them would have made it more a dry, academic history lesson, which typically don’t do so well at the box office.

The production style is amazing, the replication of the eras 1920’s – 1950’s was gorgeous and detailed. The screenplay wanders from the 50’s in opening scenes, back to the 40’s, 30’s then 20’s to give a retrospective of Turing’s youth and the sequence of events that lead back to the opening scene. Every scene is packed full of detail and not one scene is wasted.

Mathematicians are an odd group, I feel I can say that  since I am one. Scientists with a strong ability to pick out patterns, lack of patterns, connect abstract concepts previously disconnected and turn them into something else. But you know when people excel in one thing they usually lack in another. Personal relationships and social graces being the most obvious for mathematicians.

Benedict Cumberbatch did an amazing job portraying those characteristics, tweezing out the matter-of-fact communication style and priority on discovery. I was impressed with Cumberbatch’s nuanced performance, creating a Turing who was driven by an unflinching confidence in his abilities to crack the Enigma code paired with an unspoken compassion for humanity and strength to endure many sacrifices and indignities.

I definitely recommend Imitation Game for any science-nerd or old-school espionage fan but more importantly to see the performance from Cumberbatch which will likely accelerate his already impressive career.

 

 

 

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