1951, A tired Alan Turning is sitting in a sterile interrogation room. The walls, chairs, suits, everything is in tones of black and grey and there is a gloomy feeling in the room. It makes us wonder, what actions brought him here? But we soon forget these thoughts as we are thrown into 1939 Europa. World War II has started, children who are too young to fight are being sent out to the countryside, bombs are flying and a game of espionage, secrecy, lies and codes are in full play.
In Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, the mathematician Alan Turning (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleges are trying to decrypt the German enigma code to turn the tide of the war for the Allies. There are a great lot of similarities to be found between Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes and his interpretation of Alan Turning, though it does not necessarily has to be something negative. Unlike Sherlock who is complicated and takes a long time to fully understand, Alan Turning is complex in a comprehensible way with new depth that are constantly introduced without losing credibility.
Like a lot of movies that are based on true stories, The Imitation Game has taken a lot of criticism from history enthusiasts for adding or removing, or for glorifying or besmirching too much. Thing like, that Alan Turning didn’t really invent the turning machine, he just created a more advanced version of it. Or that he wasn’t a humorless social outcast, that he in fact was very social and well liked. The list goes on with a lot of boring facts like dates and timelines. But since when is “based on a true story” associated with concrete fact when talking about movies? If reality was as interesting as fiction we would all be sitting with our snacks on a Sunday night watching the news. And even the news is presented in a way to make it more exciting. Fiction takes us to a world beyond our normal lives.
Though I see this criticism as a bit misguided, I can still understand why someone would feel this, watching The Imitation Game. The movie is kind of a tribute to Alan Turing who decrypted the German enigma code with the help of his turning machine. Combine this with the movie intrigue’s main focus on war and codes and you might expect a historic espionage drama. These war scenes in my own opinion sets an incorrect tone of the move for you should not forget that it starts with Alan Turing being, sitting in an interrogation room, being accused and awaiting punishment for being a homosexual. The main theme of the movie is not about the Allies winning World War II or how Alan Turning broke the enigma code. The main theme of the movie is about identity. Alan Turning was a homosexual in a time when it was punishable by law. This becomes extra clear in the resolution phase of the move were the main focus is not about war but about how homosexuals were persecuted for their sexual preferences during this time. Don’t get me wrong though, is not about Alan’s identity as a homosexual, that’s just one piece in a bigger pie. Alan is in a constant identity struggle with his inability to understand normal social codes. In a conversation with his childhood friend Christopher, when they were children, Alan struggles to understand the difference between decrypting codes and understanding what people really means. How they say one thing but mean another thing. Alan doesn’t understand and cannot identify with social groups in society. Alan ends his life story in the interrogation room with the question: ”So tell me, what am I? Am I a machine? Am I a person? Am I a war hero? Am I a criminal?”
The Imitation Game is not about a homosexual mathematician but a mathematician who happens to be homosexual. And his struggle to understand and find his identity in the complicated codes of society while trying to break the German enigma code.
– Thomas Tjerngren