Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Imitation Game (2014)

      The Imitation Game (2014) [D: Morton Tyldum. Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode] A fictionalised version of Turing’s life, focussing on his work at Bletchley Park, where he improved on a Polish code-breaking machine and invented the theoretical basis of the digital computer, and ending with his arrest on charges of gross indecency and the effects of synthetic estrogen on his personality and mind.
     The script emphasises the strained human relationships and emotional costs, and strongly hints that Turing was autistic. It dramatises the research and the conflicts within Bletchley Park, portraying its Commander as a narrow-minded results-focussed martinet who despised academics. The relationship between Turing and Joan Clarke has the ring of truth, despite the use of Knightley to act the part. The producers skim over the math and logic, rightly deciding I think that too much technical detail would cause eye-glazing. But an unfortunate side-effect is a variation on the mad-scientist-geek stereotype: Turing is not normal. I think that many, perhaps most, movie-goers will on the one hand sympathise with the emotional pain Turing suffered, and on the other will feel confirmed in the attitude that science is not for ordinary folk. The victimisation of Turing as a gay man will cause similar mixed responses.
     Having seen Codebreaker (See review of February 24, 2015) I think was an advantage, since it supplied an objective framework for this film’s point of view. We can never know what it feels like to be someone else; we even have difficulty reconstructing our own early selves. Biopics like this one help us, and when a nuanced script, a uniformly high level of action, and a carefully paced narrative rhythm come together as they do in this movie, we only be grateful. It’s worth seeing, both as a great movie and as a credible and moving interpretation of man’s life. ****

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