The Imitation Game

Turing memorialThis film makes the commanding officer of Bletchley Park a blimpish buffoon, and Alan Turing a traitor. Is that forgiveable?

It is difficult to make drama out of Ultra, which cracked the Enigma code. A few very clever people get together and two years later have solved a difficult mathematical problem with a precursor of the digital computer. Hooray, but not dramatic, even with scenes of enemy planes dropping bombs and U-boats firing torpedoes. A documentary could tell of some of the problems they faced, and the film tells of one: having decoded enemy signals, how do they conceal that they have done so? By statistical analysis to find what number of enemy attacks foiled will enable the allies to win the advantage without demonstrating to the enemy that their signals have been decoded. The film makes this drama by showing one of the first signals decoded showing that there will be an attack on a passenger convoy: they cannot save the convoy. “But my brother’s on that ship!” Thinking about it later, the film fails on both counts: we have a dry explanation of the statistical problem- not drama- and a man begging the others to save his brother- not believable.

Charles Dance prowls about beautifully as Commander Denniston, the CO of Bletchley. He cannot understand Turing, and so short-sightedly opposes him. This creates drama, and possibly there were problems, but six redcaps marching in and shutting down Turing’s computer is not history. It is too silly. Though it did not break my suspension of disbelief at the time.

Then there is the Queer scene. Turing discovers John Cairncross, who was never at Bletchley, is a Soviet spy, because of a silly mistake. Cairncross says he will reveal that Turing is a homosexual. Turing backs down. I just don’t know. On the plus side, it shows the pressure gay men were under when “gross indecency” was criminal. On the minus, it shows Turing not shopping Cairncross. I come down for. Most of us watching this film will get it- gay men had an awful time, but showing Turing blackmailed into a Betrayal shows the level of the pressure. And- I don’t like him being seen in misprision of treason.

The mistake: from a bit of dry expository dialogue, we know a spy is using a code based on Matthew 7:7- Ask, seek, knock- so when we see a Bible open at that verse, the visual image tells the story. Simplify, to tell the story visually.

They are all very beautiful, BC and Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode. Was Turing autistic? Autism campaigners might want him as one of theirs- “Man who won the War Autistic!” I don’t have a horse in that race.