“The Imitation Game”: Some Truth and Some SPOILERS

The movie boasts its own inspirational rallying cry, repeated three times in case you miss it, which would be perfect for embossing on a holly-bedecked greeting card: “Sometimes, it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one imagines.” Susan Wloszczyna, rogerebert.com, regarding The Imitation Game

As told in Morten Tyldum‘s well-praised The Imitation Game, such a person was mathematician Alan Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), a closeted gay man who was instrumental in cracking the Enigma code during World War II.


Chris Nashawaty, ew.com:  “It’s no wonder he was so drawn to ciphers and games. After all, he had to live in code.”

More about the portrayal of Turing from A.O. Scott, New York Times: “…Turing, whom the film seems to place somewhere on the autism spectrum, is as socially awkward as he is intellectually agile. He can perceive patterns invisible to others but also finds himself stranded in the desert of the literal. Jokes fly over his head, sarcasm does not register, and when one of his colleagues says, ‘We’re going to get some lunch,’ Turing hears a trivial statement of fact rather than a friendly invitation.”



The screenplay is based on a biography by Andrew Hodges. David Edelstein, Vulture.com, states the following, however:

You’ll get an F if your only source for a paper on Turing is The Imitation Game; it telescopes like mad…The film is true, though, to the extraordinary friendship between Turing and Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), a rare female colleague and one he almost married. It’s intriguing, their meeting of minds on both Enigma and the possibility of a nonsexual union between two unique individuals in a firmly sexist, homophobic culture.

And L.V. Anderson, Slate, writes what she learned after reading the book: “…The Imitation Game takes major liberties with its source material, injecting conflict where none existed, inventing entirely fictional characters, rearranging the chronology of events, and misrepresenting the very nature of Turing’s work at Bletchley Park. At the same time, the film might paint Turing as being more unlovable than he actually was.”

How does the film handle Turing’s sexual orientation issues? A.O. Scott, New York Times: “Turing’s sexuality is mystified and marginalized, treated as an abstraction and a plot point…Mr. Hodges’s biography, threaded with quotations from Walt Whitman, gives eloquent and sensitive testimony to the contrary.”

Specifically about the film’s endingAlex von Tunzelmann, The Guardian, notes that the focus on Turing being suspected of espionage is untrue, as is the related accidental discovery that he’s gay. “In real life, Turing himself reported a petty theft to the police – but changed details of his story to cover up the relationship he was having with the possible culprit, Arnold Murray. The police did not suspect him of espionage. They pursued him with regard to the homophobic law of gross indecency.”

Claudia Puig, USA Today, tells us what viewers learn at the end, which is apparently true: “Turing is credited with saving the lives of 14 million people and cutting the war’s length by two years. He was repaid for his extraordinary service by being arrested in 1952 for gross indecency and chemically castrated because of his homosexuality, then illegal. He committed suicide two years later, at 41.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *