The Imitation Game
January 14, 2015
Aside: Thanks for all the comments on Monday’s post. It’s been cool seeing everyone’s comments about the series as a whole and Kitty in particular. Now, I really hope people like the book!
Movie review time: Of the two Important British Scientists Biopics that came out this winter (I’m always fascinated when movies seem to happen in pairs like this), this was the one I was most interested in, because it’s WWII and because Turing is an overlooked, important, and ultimately tragic figure. I could kind of predict what kind of story The Theory of Everything would be, but I was curious how this one would shake out.
The truth is, I wasn’t sure about The Imitation Game while I was watching it. It’s quite scattered, jumping around in time and unsure if it’s a character study or a rousing war story. But then Turing turned on The Machine for the first time, and I started crying, and I thought, dang, the movie got to me, how did that happen?
This is a World War II movie of the Mythic WWII variety. It’s also a spy thriller, and a character study, and it was at its best as a character study. The very best parts were the interactions of the Hut 8 codebreakers, and Alan trying to figure out how human beings work, which the movie proposes was more complicated to him than the most ornate cryptography. There’s a climactic bit that takes place in the pub — Turing gets it, reacts, and then everyone else gets it a second later because they’re finally all on the same page — that the film sets up perfectly, and it made me wish the story had done without all the newsreel type footage of the actual war, because after all we’ve all seen that footage and we didn’t need to be reminded of what the stakes were.
A great deal of my uncertainty about the film also came from just being tired of the Socially Awkward Unpleasant Genius character, especially as played by Benedict Cumberbatch. I’m one of the few people who’s unhappy with his casting as Dr. Strange, because I worry we’re just going to get that same guy all over again. My vote was for Oded Fehr.
What I really wanted to do after the movie was find out more about Joan Clarke. She’s one of those examples that I love discovering, that prove that women were there, doing important work wherever there was important work to be done. They just never seem to get recognized for it. History forgets about them, and we must remember.
Next time, or soon: I have things to say about Penny Dreadful and Agent Carter. Maybe even at the same time, which’ll be fun.