Did you ever wonder what A Beautiful Mind would look like if it was British, dealing with more important historical details and directed by a hack? Well now you don’t have to.
So I finally went to go see The Imitation Game. I had misgivings about it…on the one hand you had a story about Alan Turing, the man who cracked Enigma (which helped end WWII), who helped invent the computer, and who ranks up there with men like Tesla as those who helped shaped the modern world…on the other hand you have Hollywood which will never tell a story accurately, will see ‘oh our character is gay, let’s make that a primary focus of the movie’ and let’s change history in ways that the plot just doesn’t require…because…because…because that’s what Hollywood does. Regrettably all my misgivings were justified.
Okay let’s talk about the virtues of the film. It shows Turing’s genius and what he did contribute to the world. It did provide some real tension for what might be the otherwise dull tale of cryptography. Benedict Cumberbatch is as always a top rate actor who does his role with Oscar quality. Knightley also turns in her usual solid performance.
However, let’s start with that performance. Cumberbatch, for what I can only guess was the choice of the director’s insanity or Cumberbatch’s ignorance of the real Turing, they decided to play the character not as a snobbish intellectual but as someone with full blown Asperger’s who had a real problem with even understanding human interaction. The way Cumberbatch plays Turing I can promise you the character would have failed the famous Turing Test and you would deduced he was a machine and not a human. He does an excellent job portraying the character…it’s just the character has little to do with the real man. I have no idea why they did this as my limited research about Turing shows this was not accurate. I see no point to adding major psychological conditions to a character for no conceivable purpose. I understand changing things in a story to make it a better story (good history is not always good art and a movie is first and foremost art), I usually have no problem with that, but this served no purpose.
Further the movie’s first scene is a card saying “1951” and police investigating a break-in in his house—which even with my limited knowledge about Turing told me this was leading the public discovery his homosexuality…and this overshadows everything in the film, not his genius, hardly anything about how he created the basis for modern computers (besides limited text at the end of the movie)…no, no let’s have the first and last scenes of the movie focus on his sex life and never let that aspect of his life ever get to far away from the narrative (to the point that we make up a childhood friendship that never happened to show his love of men). And the injustice of prosecuting and forcing him into chemical treatment for being gay wasn’t enough…they make up symptoms of the treatment suggesting that it turned him into a highly functional vegetable, when in reality he published quality research and insights in those years. Look, I’m not saying that the director shouldn’t have made the injustice of prosecuting a man for his orientation a central point of the film…but if you can’t let the truth of the injustice speak for itself you are a terrible director. The British government prosecuted a man for his orientation and chemically castrated him for it. Holy god, why do you have to make stuff up to show how terrible that is?
And because this overshadows everything, the horror of WWII, the importance of breaking the ENIGMA code, the genius of building the machine that he build is never fully realized on an emotional level, because almost every time we get close let’s stop to remind you that Alan Turing was gay…and autistic (but he wasn’t)…but mainly gay. A whole portion of the film is wasted going back to his fictional childhood and his first love…but it does nothing for the story as a whole.
It could have been a good movie…but poor direction ruined it.
Final Grade 1 out of 5