Back in July I wrote about the up-coming film of Turing’s life, “The Imitation Game”. Tonight I was invited to go and watch said film. I have to admit that there wasn’t really anything new in the film as far as story. It skipped neatly across the now well-known key aspects of Turing’s life. Being gay, being an odd duck, being potentially “on the spectrum” (autistic), being a genius, being sorely abused by a nation that owed him much. There were hints at other parts of his story, but not explicitly told. For example, there were scenes with apples and cyanide, but no mention that the two together were the method of his suicide.
Towards the end of the story, as Turing starts to lose his faculties because of chemical castration (a “treatment” for his homosexuality), I confess to a small tear. A great mind sorely wounded by those he helped so much. “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of that do the things no one can imagine”. This phrase is used a few times in the film to great emotional effect.
It did however pay a little homage to his place as one of the fathers of modern computing. The US actually had a parental warning for the film because it contained… advanced maths (which it only did by reference)! It did though have a completely unnecessary rendition of “bollocks” at one point. There was even a contrived nod to The Turing Test that he’d developed to help define Artificial Intelligence (remember this is before computers even existed – the man was a true visionary).
Mark Strong plays an excellent part as “the spy guy” from MI6, also bringing a few of the unexpected but well done lighter moments. There’s a nod to the sterling work done to fool the Germans about the source of the intelligence to further obfuscate Colossus and also a faint nod to the “XX” (double cross) system to knowingly let secret agents for foreign powers operate in Britain, so that the the material they sent back could be controlled. It also paid tribute to the heartache of having to let many people die in order to protect the secret that Enigma had been cracked. The secret was so secure that the UK let its firm ally Canada use Enigma for transmitting its secrets after the war, still believing it was unbreakable. Few even in the UK knew. It was “Ultra” secret.
Turing, as I’ve said elsewhere is one of my few heroes. Cumberbatch is an awesome actor and caught the essence of the man well. I must however retract an unkind stance I took back in July’s piece. Keira Knightley actually did a reasonable job in this film. Well done to her. It is definitely one of her better offerings to the world of cinema.
The UK’s Guardian have a review here if you’d like a more professional review.
By the way, it turns out Cumberbatch is actually related to Turing… very distantly. I thought that was fitting, if accidental. As time goes on it seems he is getting more of the recognition he deserves. Though of questionable motivation, he was posthumously pardoned by QEII (the woman, not the ship) in 2013. It’s questionable because to give a pardon means accepting that the offence was real and needs pardoning. He was gay. That is not a crime, and need not be pardoned.