“Just because something thinks differently from you, does that mean it’s not thinking?”
Meet Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician and university professor who successfully broke the Germans’ elaborate Enigma code during WWII. He greatly contributed to the Allies’ victory during the war. Yet, his secret about his homosexuality appalled his 20th century contemporaries.
Set in the mid-1900s during a time of great uncertainty and loss, The Imitation Game centers around Turing’s unusually strong attachment with a machine he builds to break the German code while conducting classified work at Bletchley Park. He names it after his former childhood friend, Christopher, whom he secretly had affectionate feelings for. However, tension builds as those who work alongside Turing in decoding the German messages suspect his secret.
The movie switches between Turing’s childhood and present life to help the viewers understand how Turing developed his homosexual feelings. In addition, the story highlights his developing friendship with one of his Bletchley colleagues, Joan, as a testimony that he doesn’t have to face life, nor his problems, alone.
Similar to his cranking machine, the wheels of Turing’s mind are ever turning as he restlessly takes on the challenge to decipher the message that will ultimately change the course of the war. Yet, Turing humbles himself and learns the value of working with other people like Joan. He knows that he is different, and everyone around him assumes the same. Still, both Turing and his comrades are able to lay those differences aside as a means of working toward a common goal.
Turing’s secret is eventually discovered by the authorities through interrogation, and he is later forced to undergo medical treatment for his homosexual tendencies. Then the viewer begins to understand that the emphasis on Turing’s attachment with the machine is not only meant to explain his need for companionship, but it is also intended to demonstrate how people view him. They perceive him as a machine, or to put it more bluntly, a heartless human.
The dark and inspirational music within the movie reflects the fractured nature of Turing himself and of those who ostracize him. Steady rhythms and varying intensity of the strings correlate with his unrelenting drive and shifting focus. It adds heaviness to the film’s atmosphere and creates tension — a wonderful balance and by far one of the best aspects of the film.
Viewers should keep in mind that the film’s purpose is not to serve as a political stance in support of the LGBT community, nor is its intent to cater to those who disagree with Turing’s lifestyle. Rather the story is meant for viewers to come away with the reminder that each person has value regardless of the way they think or live.
In fact, despite the role his sexual orientation played in real life, the movie ironically chooses to portray his story through his platonic relationship with Joan, who is an entirely fictional character — an idea that seems odd given his sexuality and what the culture has chosen to explicitly embrace.
Of course, The Imitation Game contains some of the usual Hollywood romanticism and does not fully or accurately explore all of Turing’s life. This movie is also categorized under drama as opposed to action or romance. However, it contains great cinematography with a stellar cast of A-List actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, and Charles Dance.
As a history buff, I jump at every opportunity to see a good film based on historical fiction. The Imitation Game impresses me not simply because of its aesthetic appeal or casting, but also because of its message that being different doesn’t make a person any less human.