Alan Turing’s story is one that definitely should be told, but it’s one that should be told through an actual movie, not through a collection of meandering scenes that happen to be next to each other. The Imitation Game wants you to be moved, to be fascinated, to be able to learn something about Turing, but the problem is that the movie doesn’t know how to go about it. It attempts to tie everything together thematically, but its version of doing so consists of the “hammering the message over your head until you have no choice but to give it an Oscar” method.
It’s a shame, really, considering Turing is a fascinating person to delve into. In the movie, he comes across as yet another exaggerated, socially awkward genius, and by the time the filmmakers realize that Turing was much more than a cliche, we’ve already moved onto some random, superfluous plot point. Don’t worry, though, because if you didn’t get the message, Turing was not normal, and he did things that were not normal. It’s a flimsy thesis, but with interesting characters, I’m willing to cut the movie a little slack.
Unfortunately, the movie’s definition of “interesting” is apparently “dull”. It’s a fantastic cast, what with people like Matthew Goode and Charles Dance and more showing up, but not one supporting character is fleshed out much. Goode’s Hugh Alexander, for example, solely exists so that some tension can be manufactured between him and Turing, and when the movie wants to move away from that and create a “Rah rah, we’re a team!” mood, it does so without paying any attention to character development. As a whole, the movie is extremely disjointed, and the characters move around aimlessly within three timelines until they’re needed for exposition or for the next big, dramatic scene. Nothing ever gels, and nothing really sticks with you as a result.
I do appreciate, however, the fact that the movie addresses the ethical dilemmas surrounding Enigma, especially after it’s broken. The characters are asked to measure the lives of some against the lives of many, and although these ideas aren’t given nearly as much screen time as they should’ve been given, they’re still there. Ultimately, though, it’s an empty movie, and while Cumberbatch tries his hardest to elevate the script, his performance is still considerably weakened because of the mediocre writing. The movie plods its way through a laundry list of things it wants to touch on, and for such an interesting and tragic story, it’s hard to believe that this is what results. But hey, anything’s possible; if Enigma can be solved, then a bad movie certainly can be made. The difference between the two is that the former seemed to at least involve some passion, heart, and intelligence.
-Keira Knightley is fine in this, but again, the characterization is weak. Charles Dance is always great for some banter, though, and the scenes between him and Cumberbatch are some of the few sharply written scenes in the movie.
-On Turing’s homosexuality: on one side, you have the “it doesn’t define him in the movie” argument, which certainly is the case. On the other hand, you have the “it’s downplayed” argument, which also is the case because let’s face it: the Weinsteins don’t want to offend any voters. I’d argue that it has more influence on the story than people are giving it credit for, but the controversy here is indicative of a larger problem regarding the story as a whole. Simply put, the movie doesn’t thoroughly engage with the character beyond the normal cliches, and that’s disappointing.
-Here are some interesting articles about the historical inaccuracies in the movie:
Normally, I’d be fine with some inaccuracies, but I feel like these inaccuracies are significantly detrimental to the movie.
-Kudos to Alex Lawther as young Turing. He’s just as good as Cumberbatch is.
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company, The Imitation Game