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"The Imitation Game" Review

The Imitation Game is this year's The King's Speech for the Oscars: A well-made, well-acted, veddy British historical drama which manages to make interesting people and events utterly forgettable.

Bernadette Cumberbund plays Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician hired by British Intelligence to crack the code of the Enigma machine, a Nazi device which the Brits managed to get a unit of, but can't use because the initial settings are changed daily. It doesn't matter if they somehow guess the proper code out of 158,962,555,217,826,360,000 possible settings combinations because the next day, the code would change.

Since it would be impossible for humans to run through all the combos, Turing proposes building a machine - which would become considered one of the first electronic computers - that would automate the process, but even that's not enough until a lucky epiphany gives them the key to cracking the code. Ironically, they can't use this knowledge to its fullest extent that they could because if the Germans noticed the Allies were suddenly aware of their doings, they'd change the method and the good guys would be set back to square one.

Bracketing the war effort scenes are sequences set after the war and from Turing's childhood concerning his homosexuality which was super not allowed back then with supposedly tragic consequences. (More below on that.) These scenes are tangential to the story and seemed tacked on to provide a soapbox for gay rights preaching when the way it effects the main war-time story is just as effective. (i.e. Turing discovers a Soviet spy, but doesn't turn him because the spy threatens to out him back.) The chaste "romance" between Turning and a brilliant female on the team, played by Keira Knightley, who doesn't get respect because woman is OK but typical sexism-of-the-era stuff which also fuels Marvel's Agent Carter.

Bandersnatch Cumquat is quite good as Turing, though the character is written as the usual Brilliant A-Hole With Zero People Skills Whom Others Grudgingly Accept Because Genius trope. At least we don't think of Sherlock or Khan 2.0 while watching him. Knightley is also OK, though I'm not sure if she's Oscar-grade. However, Charles Dance, as the boss of this operation, seems to have thought he was still playing Tywin Lannister.

As is the usual with Hollywood's depictions of real events, there's plenty of dispute as to the accuracy of the film but while the substitution of Knightley for the mortal-looking Joan Clarke isn't so bad, the claimed reason and timing for Turning's death really casts suspicion on the agenda of the filmmakers; you shouldn't imply as fact what's clearly not. Also, they never explain in the least how the massive code-breaking machine works - it's just this huge clacking contraption that makes magic.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable.


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