2001 saw the release of Enigma, a film about the titular Nazi encryption machine and more specifically about the legendary mathematician who was instrumental in cracking its code.
It had a high profile cast (for its time) in Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Saffron Burrows, Jeremy Northam and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who would, later on become much more famous as a pivotal character in an obscenely popular medieval TV show. There’s a problem with Enigma, however and it’s the fact the filmmakers substituted the real-life homosexual mathematician, Alan Turing, for a fictional heterosexual mathematician named Thomas Jericho and indeed the story centres around his very heterosexual love affair. This incredible sleight against a significant historical figure is, in retrospect, offensive to say the least let alone the disappointment in reducing a highly intriguing historical event to a spy-chasing romance.
The Imitation Game seeks to correct this ‘reimagining’ and essentially succeeds in this goal. Sure, there is much licence taking for the purposes of spicing up the script (which is a little frustrating given the intrigue of the truth) but it hits the important notes and we emerge at the other end with the commensurate admiration and sympathy that Turing deserves.
Turing’s homosexuality is dealt with deftly. Critically, Turing kept his illicit sexuality secret and so does the film for a good deal of the proceedings, appropriately revealing it as it becomes critical to the story. It is never permitted to overshadow the significance of Turing’s mathematical genius yet it doesn’t resile from the personal cost of the injustice that his sexuality invites even if this chapter of the story is a little prone to melodrama.
The film remains compelling throughout, touching upon the important issues such as the official withholding of intelligence at the expense of innocent lives. Though these events are at times presented non-factually, the gravity of the issues are rightly felt nonetheless.
Ever since his turn in the Sherlock television programme, Benedict Cumberbatch has become a viewers’ darling and his excellent performance here will not endanger that status. Likewise, Keira Knightley is excellent as is Charles Dance and Mark Strong. Matthew Goode does what he can in a rather thankless role as fellow mathematician, Hugh Alexander.
The Imitation Game is not entirely authentic but it hits the right tone and canvases the appropriate issues and historical landmarks admirably in a compelling presentation.