Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Imitation Game - My Review

So my buddy Robert and I got to see a pre-release screening of Benedict Cumberbatch's new movie The Imitation Game. Here's a brief synopsis: The film portrays the race against time by Alan Turing and his team of code-breakers at Britain's top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. The motley group of scholars, mathematicians, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers had a powerful ally in Prime Minister Winston Churchill who authorized the provision of any resource they required. The film spans the key periods of Turing's life: his unhappy teenage years at boarding school; the triumph of his secret wartime work on the revolutionary electro-mechanical bombe that was capable of breaking 3,000 Enigma-generated naval codes a day; and the tragedy of his post-war decline following his conviction for gross indecency, a now-outdated criminal offence stemming from his admission of maintaining a homosexual relationship.


I hadn't heard of Alan Turning (which I am ashamed/disappointed in) or seen any promotional material for this movie but when I got the invite and saw that it involved Cumberbatch, WW2 and Homosexuality I wanted to see it.. and I'm so glad I did.

The movie is set during three different key time periods of his life, his early teens, WWII and about 5 years after the war. Though the bulk of the movie does take place during the war. They jump back a forth between the time periods but I'm going to talk about each one separately. I really enjoyed his early teenage years. The young actor who they got to play a young Turning was amazing. I could really identify with this kid as he was different, bullied and lonely. But he did have one true friend a kid named Christopher. They had a special relationship, he was there for Alan when he was being bullied. They use to send cryptic message back and forth. It was heartbreaking what happens about midway through the film. Back from a two week vacation Alan writes in code " I love you " and plans to give it to Christopher but Christopher never returns. He dies while on vacation from Tuberculosis. Alan pretends that he doesn't care but you can see that it's killing him inside. And as an audience member your heart is just breaking.

As I said the bulk of the movie takes place during the War. We see lots of conflict at the beginning between Alan and his team before Joan (Keira Knightley) joins the team and teaches Alan how to work with others. Soon the team is a well oiled machine. Joan and Alan have a close relationship and when her parents want her to return home, Alan proposes. Later in the movie he confesses that he's a homosexual but she doesn't care, she loves him and enjoys his company. It's a very sweet moment but he's worried for her life as things are getting more and more complicated, so he claims he's never cared for her and the proposal is off. She knows somethings up and sticks around anyways. There is a great scene when they are about to pull the plug on his machine but his team stands behind him and says if they fire Alan the entire time will walk as well.

When they finally break the code they realize that they can't tell anyone as Hitler would know they broke it and create a new one. So this group has to decide mathematically which events they can stop and help and which ones they can do nothing about so they don't raise suspension... They have millions of lives in their hands.. they were playing god, I couldn't even imagine the pressure or guilt they felt... it's crazy.

The final time period is set about 5 years after the war and a detective is investigating a robbery at Alan's home. He suspects something is up with Alan but can't figure it out. He soon things Alan is a spy during the war but what he finds out, is that he's not a spy, Alan Turning is a homosexual. You can tell that the detective can care less that he's gay and when he finds out the truth as to what Alan did during the war you can see the conflict in his eyes. During this time in British history being a homosexual was against the law. You could tell the detective fells horrible as what he's uncovered. Turning is exposed and arrested for indecency. He has two choices to go to jail for 2 years or be medically treated for his "sickness" (aka chemical castration). There is a scene at the end when Joan visits Alan and you can tell that the medication is taking it's toll on him. She asks why he's doing it (taking the medicine) and he says he can't go jail and leave Christopher (the name he gave his machine/computer) and then he pleads with her to not let them take Christopher from him and leave him alone. 

I cried on and off during this film but with that scene I lost it. Blogging about it now is making me tear up. This man was so lonely and lost his true love when he was just a teenager. He was a national hero (though unknown at the time) and what the British government did to him was horrific. 

The very end of the movie there are titles that come up over video informing the viewer that Alan endured a year of this horrible medication treatment before committing suicide, he was only 41 years old. Also over 45,000 men were convicted for indecency (being homosexual) and also chemically castrated under that barbaric law.

On September 10th 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for "the appalling way he was treated." The Queen granted him a posthumous pardon on December 24th 2013.


Needless to say, I loved this movie. The performances were amazing especially Cumberbatch's, I see an Oscar nomination in his near future. This film was not only about the War and Enigma but also about social norms and sexism (with Joan's character). It's well paced and though the jumping back and forward in time is a bit jarring at first it, you do get use to it. It's uplifting, heart wrenching and though provoking. It's a movie that I won't watch everyday but like with most of my favorite dramas it's nice to watch once in a while. I will be purchasing this movie on Blu-ray when it comes out. I'm still hoping to get a screener of it in the next few months. 

I give The Imitation Game a solid A. I saw a quote from James Rocchi of that said it best. "Strong, stirring, triumphant and tragic, “The Imitation Game” may be about a man who changed the world, but it’s also about the world that destroyed a man."

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