London Film Festival Review: The Imitation Game
10th October 2014
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★★★★★ When Benedict Cumberbatch starred in a relatively small – though pivotal – role in Atonement, he was very much in Keira Knightley’s shadow. She got an Oscar nomination for the film and was one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. Now it could be argued the tables have turned, and whilst Knightley is by no means a ‘has-been’, the long arms of celebrity and fame have touched Cumberbatch and raised him above many other heads in the acting profession. He is now a true, major A-lister. Not that celebrity status or fame should have a bearing on a performance. There have been thousands of amazing performances by complete unknowns. But with fame comes the ability to take on roles that may not otherwise be offered and the role of Alan Turing is like a dream for Cumberbatch. If there is any justice in the world, he should at least get an Academy Award nomination. In case you don’t know, and it is a sad fact that many still do not, Alan Turing was one of the most important people in helping Britain win the Second World War. By breaking the code the Nazis used as their secret method of communication, known as ‘the Enigma code’, he saved the lives of millions. So, surely he should be a national hero? Shouldn’t his face be on bank notes and his story taught in every school in the land? Why isn’t he better known? For a start, the contribution of him and his team was kept secret for decades after the Enigma code was broken. However, there is an even darker twist to this tale, one that turns a true story of determination and amazing intellectual endeavour into something tragic and upsetting. Turing was gay and was prosecuted for homosexuality. He was given the option of prison or to be injected with hormones in order to give him a so-called ‘chemical castration’ in an attempt to ‘cure’ him of his sexual orientation. To think that the UK government could act in such a way to a man who played an instrumental role in winning us the war is shocking. But this was the fate met by thousands of gay men in the UK before the (immensely restrictive) decriminalisation of some (but not all) homosexual acts in 1967. Such material gives screenwriter Graham Moore and director Morten Tyldum (the man behind Norwegian drama Headhunters) some difficulties to get over. It is hard to make a story about maths exciting, especially one that ends in the harrowing persecution of the one doing the maths. Depressing perhaps, but exciting is difficult.
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