imitation gameTHE IMITATION GAME directed by Morton Tyldum (UK, 2014)

This movie leaves me torn. On the one hand, I can see that it’s a tight and effective thriller with some great performances.

At the same time, I think that the writer and director missed a golden opportunity to set the record straight on a man who until recently was a forgotten hero.

Biopics inevitably bend the facts and this is fine when a story needs to be embellished to make it more interesting. A little added drama never hurt anyone. But in the case of Alan Turing, this kind of tweaking is unnecessary.

Why imply that he was blackmailed by a Russian spy when this never happened? Why suggest that his ‘abnormality’ was due to aspergers syndrome when this has not been proven? Why build up the relationship with a woman and sideline his homosexuality as if this was another of his personality flaws?

People who knew Turing describe him as eccentric, impatient, shy and kind. Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant in the title role, as is Alan Lawyher as young Turing, but while these performances capture the social ineptness of his character, the portrayals come close to representing him merely as a freak of nature.

Though Turing admits to being gay, you could be mistaken for thinking he lived a celibate life until he lapsed and, under the laws of the day (1952), subsequently found guilty of indecency. While I can understand why the filmmakers decided against steamy sex scenes, by largely excluding this aspect of his life it implies that his homosexuality was something to be ashamed of.

Graham Moore’s wooden and unimaginative script reduces the story to a battle between brains and brawn. It is left to Keira Knightly as the feisty Joan Clarke to save it from being simply a boy’s own adventure story for mathematicians.

Alan Turing consented to chemical castration treatment rather than be sent to prison and it is likely that this contributed to his suicide at the age of 41. It is left to the captions at the end to tell of this sad fate and also to list the number of other convictions for indecency under this misguided law.

59 years after Turing’s death, a long overdue official pardon was finally granted 2013.

While this film rightly heralds his triumph as a codebreaker and his improbable role as war hero, it fails to induce the righteous anger towards the appalling way he was treated by the British establishment.