As good as The Imitation Game is I can’t help but feel it plays a little too loose with history. That’s about the only criticism I have of an otherwise fine film, the fact that for anyone who hasn’t read anything previously on the events at Bletchley Park this could become the definitive version of events – which is a pity really as this is certainly a case of the reality being as interesting as the fiction. Turing is an interesting figure without mythologizing aspects of his life.
The films strengths are certainly its performances, and whilst much has been made of Cumberbatch’s performance (rightly so) it only works because everyone else is providing such strong support. It would be easy for the film to descend into a one man show (or for everyone to get their moment in the spotlight), but the truth is that it focuses on Turing and presents a condensed version of the truth (most notably Joan Clarke who was employed because of her mathematical skills as codebreaker, not hidden as a secretary) so as to simplify the story. Again, it works dramatically but there feels as if there’s still the possibility of something presenting the truth – as much as it’s known – in the future. Cumberbatch is faultless, presenting a portrait of an enigma of a man who almost wants to be left apart from the world, almost incidental to the story (although Turing was more than aware of the value of his work to the war effort and had been involved in cryptology beforehand). It occasionally falls into histrionics, but that’s one of the faults of the modern bio-pic where additional drama sometimes needs to be injected. Kiera Knightley is fine, although the film does devalue the role that women had at Bletchley. Special note must be made of Mark Strong who is quickly becoming one of my favourite supporting actors, all measured responses and reasoning – it’s easy to believe him as the sort of establishment figure who would be involved in the spy business.
With such strong performances the film needs little in the way of directorial fireworks and so proceeds along without the traditional set pieces, with only the stylistic choice of giving the (almost incidental) scenes of battle a news reel like quality rather than aiming for a crisp realism. It’s interesting to see a film embracing its limited budget in this way, spending the money on acting talent rather than production design. The pacing is near perfect, this is a sub two hour film with little in the way of waste to get in the way – it’s a pity that many other films don’t follow its model of economy.
When all is said and done I did enjoy it and would recommend it to others, but my only caveat is that I’d ask that people read what the truth of the situation was as well. The Imitation Game is a fine dramatization of events, but is too keen to take liberties with the truth.