Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game tells the story of Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) whose groundbreaking work on cracking the German Enigma cypher helped shorten World War II.
As so often, Turing is loosely set up as a flawed individual: a man ‘brutalised’ into arrogance and insularity by a system which, in this case, welcomes genius until it’s no longer expedient. Tyldum’s narrative is conventionally filmic in its reliance on flashbacks – both to Turing’s schooldays and as a general narrative framework that culminates in Turing’s 1952 conviction for gross indecency. The cinematography indulges in associative imaging (rolling tank wheels into rolling discs on Turing’s decryption machine: yes, there were two battlefields) and digitally enhanced nighttime views of London that are simply incongruous (black-out?).
Cumberbatch revisits the school of creepy excellence as he goes about gathering his band of Bletchley Park brothers by awkwardly doling out apples. But like too much else, the sinful apple metaphor (a bitten apple was found beside Turing’s body post-1954 suicide) hints at the imposition of societal standards without visualising its correlative: Turing’s unapologetic homosexuality.
The Imitation Game | Directed by Morten Tyldum (USA, UK 2014) with Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley. Starts January 22
Originally published in issue #134, January 2015.