Movie Review: The Imitation Game

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: Very well acted.  A very fascinating story if you don’t know anything about Alan Turing’s life.  Somewhat clichéd.

I’m fairly positive that almost anyone who sees “The Imitation Game” will like it better than I did.  Alan Turing was an amazing person and almost single-handedly brought an end to the Second World War.  All this and he was treated like a pariah after the war just for being a homosexual.  My problem is partially that none of this was new to me.  It’s a great story for those who know nothing of the goings on at Bletchley Park.  For me, it fell a little flat.

I think the main problem with the movie is how it treats Alan Turing.  The flashbacks to his childhood at the academy are the most touching and humanizing scenes in the film and I have nothing but praise for how they depict the already wildly different young Turing being picked on and very delicately exploring his homosexuality.  The adult Turing, though portrayed brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch, just comes off as another clichéd mad genius who is incredibly difficult to work with.  This does lead to some very humorous moments like when he tries to appear more humane and gets his fellow cryptanalyst some apples and attempts to tell a joke.  But even then, I was laughing before he even started to tell the joke because I knew what was coming.

The movie also fails the Bechdel Test miserably by only having one female of any note, Joan Clarke played wonderfully by Keira Knightley.  This can be forgiven because, well, it was a man’s world back then and they were pretty true to the story.  What can’t be forgiven is the one main interaction she has with another woman, they talk about boys.  The scene was complete fluff and it’s only purpose seemed to be so they could stick their thumb in the eye of the Bechdel Test.

These are all nits that can be picked only by someone who is familiar with the story.  Those that aren’t will likely be lost in the story too much to notice.  Personally, I would have been happier if they went more into the Ultra project and made a better show of exactly how they broke Enigma.  But that would probably be pretty boring for most.  They did have a few easter eggs for dorks like me.  For instance, in the background, you often saw them using Zygalski sheets which were actually used in attempts to decipher Enigma messages.  I’m sure there were others as well.

Despite my three star review, I would actually recommend this movie to most people.  It was a fascinating time of history that the world didn’t really discover until decades after it occurred due to the top secret nature of the project.