The Imitation Game
Director: Morten Tyldum
Writer: Graham Moore
Based on: Andrew Hodges‘ book Alan Turing: The Enigma
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Tuppence Middleton
Seen on: 01.02.2015
Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is brilliant, but he is also very weird. When he shows up at Bletchley Circle, ready to crack the German code machine Enigma, he has trouble fitting into the team working there, led by Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode). Hugh thinks they need to keep cracking the codes manually, while Alan is convinced that only a machine can crack Enigma. Things shift after Alan complains to Winston Churchill directly who puts him in charge, much to the team’s dismay. It is only after Alan hires Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) and the machine starts to take on shape that the team comes around as well.
The Imitation Game is a mess, there is no other way to put it. I pretty much hated everything about it except the supporting cast, and even so most of them were underused.
The film’s single biggest issue is how it tries to portray Turing himself. Not only do they dredge up the tired old socially inept genius trope that makes me want to strangle people left and right because it is just so very wrong. Yes, there are smart people on the autistic spectrum but for fuck’s sake, not every smart person is – and Turing apparently wasn’t. [In hindsight, I have to give The Theory of Everything extra points for avoiding that cliché.] Also, for a film about a gay man that tries everything to make him into a gay martyr in a homophobic world, the film is surprisingly homophobic itself. Do we ever get to see Turing be gay? No. In fact, I have rarely seen a more sexless/desireless person than film!Alan. He doesn’t even look at Matthew Goode (and honestly, what person generally into men wouldn’t give Matthew Goode at least a second look) or anybody else with any kind of desire – apart from Joan (and then it’s not really sexual desire) and Christopher. And with Christopher, they are so young that sex isn’t really part of the equation either.
So, you get this essentially desexed gay man and then emphasize how much of a victim he was of homophobia and the court-mandated estrogen he had to take (although that is then only mentioned as “hormone therapy” and not “chemical castration” – which would be more to the point), removing from him any kind of agency unless it’s about his machines. And if you watch the film, you get the impression that everything he did after the war with those machines is essentially useless, further reducing Turing’s scientific accomplishments, and not only his personality, to a one-trick-pony kind of thing.
And that is not even starting to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance that was all over the place and would have needed the restraining hand of a strong director (because he is capable of not over-emoting, I’ve seen it), which Tydlum obviously failed to be. Or the structure with the worst framing device in the police interrogation that I have seen, if not ever than at least in a very long while. Or the astounding amount of plot holes everywhere.
At least the supporting cast was really good, if woefully underused. But if I spend most of your film wishing that it was about anybody but the protagonist, you might wanna re-examine things in general.
puzzledpeaces – who hated the film less than I did but still saw much room for improvement – wrote a brilliant post about how the film could have been better. Read it.