Broad Strokes, or, The Imitation Game



The Imitation Game, a film detailing the achievements of mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing during World War II, is a tough nut to crack when you’re trying to put forth something resembling a meaningful discourse on your blog. I saw it a month ago and still don’t feel as though I’ve stumbled upon any particularly profound epiphany to share regarding the film. So, I mean, I don’t know, you can probably stop reading if you want.

I really enjoyed the movie, a welcomed detour from what has come to be expected of WWII films, but Imitation Game isn’t so much an inherently interesting films as it is a cinematic vehicle to convey interesting information.

Aren’t you glad you kept reading?

The exception, of course, is Benedict Cumberbatch’s fantastic performance as Turing. Turing was a fascinating figure and he and his team’s battle against the Nazi enigma machine (not a comic book) is an enthralling skirmish, but the events portrayed in The Imitation Game are done so largely in broad strokes.

We’re shown the wheels and wires of Turing’s bombe machine but are given a less than rudimentary explanation as to what the machine actually does. Turing and his team are faced with a morally reprehensible dilemma with widespread implications that is essentially compartmentalized into a feud between two people. We’re shown quick sequences of Turing running through the wilderness but never told that Turing was a world-class marathoner. The focus on Turing’s impact is kept largely in the context of WWII, with its farther reaching effects only hinted at. And the film has received no shortage of criticism for its purported downplaying of Turing’s sexuality and resultant persecution*.

In a way I understand what's going on here. But in another, truer, way I have no idea.

In a way I understand what’s going on here. But in another, truer, way I have no idea.

All this is to say that The Imitation Game winds up feeling like the cliff notes for Alan Turing’s contributions to British intelligence during WWII. Which certainly isn’t any particularly heinous affront. Alan Turing isn’t exactly a household name and rather than steep itself in nuance The Imitation Game sets out to familiarize the world with a man whose vast contributions to modern technology are hardly common knowledge, a goal at which the film amply succeeds.

The Imitation Game is a good film anchored by a terrific performance, but the same broad strokes it uses to summarize Alan Turing as a historical figure ultimately keep the film from being great.

*Because you can’t point out controversy without throwing in your two cents, right? For what it’s worth The Imitation Game is pretty vocally a movie about Alan Turing’s technological achievements, not his sexuality. That being said, when the move was over I was well aware of Turing’s homosexuality and the steep, devastating price he paid for it. I was not, however, aware of specifically, or even generally, how Turing’s machine worked.

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