Wars are not won on the battlefield–well not in The Imitation Game anyway. With World War II very much in the background of the story, this biopic follows British history’s most impressive overachievers–mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch).
Famously leading a motley group of scholars, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers, he was credited for shortening the war and saving millions of lives.
Turing spent his time during WWII constructing a huge proto-computer that helped him and his colleagues decrypt Enigma, the code the Nazis used to coordinate movements. Once known, the allied forces were given a massive strategical advantage.
But Turning wasn’t exactly decorated as a war hero–his influence on WWII was kept secret for decades. In the early 1950s, he was found guilty on charges of ‘gross indecency’, an accusation that would lead to his devastating conviction for the criminal offense of homosexuality. In 1954, Turing committed suicide and was eventually granted pardon in 2013 .
It’s sad to know The Imitation Game is inspired by real events–of the man, his story, his legacy. Cumberbatch’s performance is enormously entertaining full of small pleasures. Scenes set during Turing’s later days, when he is confused and prosecuted by police, alone and unknown to the public, tugs right at your heartstrings.
This film could’ve easily become a controversy, especially in this day of age. How do you celebrate the man’s existence while acknowledging the circumstances that led to his death, and not have mainstream audiences shuffle out of the cinema?
Director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Graham Moore knew how to stray away from that by strategically separating the timelines–war, pre-war and post war–which may have reduced the film’s potential power but saves the audience from a cocktail of depressants.