I like Benedict Cumberbatch as an actor. He is a little hard for my old ears to hear when he plays ‘Sherlock Holmes’ but he has a presence on the screen that gives me confidence I will be well entertained. Like Jonny Lee Miller (of “Elementary” fame), he gives his characters a vulnerability that balances out the almost superhuman abilities they possess.
In the new film, “Imitation Game”, Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, a mathematical genius recruited by the British Military in WWII. The story revolves around the British attempt to crack the German code machine, ‘Enigma’, in order to intercept secret transmissions of military data. The Enigma machine is so powerful at creating coded messages that the British fear they will never be able to figure out how it works.
Turing is assigned to a team of brilliant men who hope to find a way to interpret what the Germans are doing in time to help the war effort. Unfortunately, when you put a group of geniuses in a room and ask them to work together the results are not always pleasant. And the biggest pain/obstacle seems to be Alan Turing.
The story progresses along fairly predictable lines with several peaks and valleys in the success of the team. It helps that Keira Knightley, playing the female genius Joan Clarke, joins the group and acts as a buffer between Turing and the rest of the crew. Her presence gives Turing the ability to manage events without completely losing the support of the other participants.
As the story plays out there is an underlying theme that, for the most part, is handled pretty well. Without making a big production, we learn that Alan Turing is not just a genius, but he is also a homosexual genius. Most of his colleagues recognize the fact but seem able to work around any struggles with acceptance. And Knightley’s character provides some cover for his status by pretending to be his fiancé. All in all, the whole topic is given its due but doesn’t become the totality of the storyline.
Unfortunately, the producers/directors of the movie didn’t feel they could be satisfied just presenting the story and letting the audience come to their own conclusions.
For two engaging hours viewers witness a major miracle in cypher hacking. They applaud a disparate group of people who have achieved an unbelievable success despite enormous differences in styles and egos. And Alan Turing has accomplished something never before seen in the history of the world – he created the first working digital computer.
So what message are we to take from this powerful inspiring story?
People suffered discrimination in the past because of their sexual orientation.
That’s the message displayed as the closing credits begin.
To me, it’s as if the people in charge felt they had to deceive the audience by telling a powerful story and then saying – “we really are just pushing our agenda and you fell for it.”
This is a good story about a man who did wonderful things. He had his challenges and weaknesses and undoubtedly it is important to use those to balance the recounting of his success. But to take a well-acted, entertaining film and reduce it to a commercial for gay-rights is offensive to many who have paid the price of a ticket.
Having said all this, I would still recommend this movie. The story is slightly different than reality (read the book Alan Turing: The Enigma) but the film is still excellent.
I just think it would have been even better if someone hadn’t decided to apply a hammer to my head at the end of the evening.