Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Thoughts About 'The Imitation Game'"

My first thought is the film’s title reminds me of a title for a blog post I might have written and then could not, from its title, determine what it was about.  (Which brings to mind the curmudgeonly comedian W.C. Fields who, terrified of ever being without funds wherever he was, opened dozens of bank accounts across the country under a series of fictitious names – such as Larson E. Whipsnade or Mahatma Kane Jeeves – and then later entirely forgot what those fictitious names were.)

My second impression was that I loved The Imitation Game for an hour, before it lost steam and deteriorated into the predictable.  And then Dr. M pointed out… wait! 

The most important point by far is that we watched The Imitation Game in our bedroom because I had finally learned how to work the DVD player! 

And it only took ten years! 

I can’t believe I almost forgot about that.  It’s amazing.  I master a formerly impenetrable gizmo and five minutes later, I’m blasé!  Allow me to celebrate for a moment.


Thank you.

Okay, moving on…

The Imitation Game is a “biopic” – meaning a cinematorial depiction of an actual person – in this case an English genius named Alan Turing who spearheaded the breaking of the German message-encrypting code during World War II which contributed greatly to our winning the war – in which a permissible “artistic license” allows the writer to include virtually anything they want, the result being a movie that’s like,

“It happened, but…not that part.”

a genre I am not entirely comfortable with.  I read somewhere about a college professor who taught “Creative Non-Fiction” and my head started to spin.  What exactly is that?

“It’s historically accurate.  But we change things.”


Anyway, there’s that.  A sporadically accurate movie, concerning a brilliant man who cracked the German code during World War II, who was later required to undergo chemical… treatment to subdue his homosexual proclivities in lieu of prison, being as how same sex interaction in England at that time was prohibitively against the law. 

There was also the indication that had his proclivitorial secret been exposed while he was immersed in his code-breaking activities, Turing would have been summarily removed from the project, the code might never have been broken, and the Germans might have won World War II.  Which, it goes without saying, would not have been good.

A lawbreaker of a statute later expunged from the Penal Code makes an irreplaceable contribution to help the “Good Guys” to prevail. 

Why are we giving him a hard time?

Making a “biopic” requires the application of a predicable constructional grid, thus homogenizing a real but factually “messy” occurrence into “Familiar Territory”, complete with assiduous time-juggling, fabricated conflicts and intensified relationships.  

Venn Diagram:  “‘Biopics’ manipulate reality.”  The Imitation Game is a ‘biopic.’’’  The Imitation Game manipulates reality.”

It has no choice. 

So there’s that.

Why then did I, for at least the first hour, enjoy the movie?

An interesting and important story.  Restrained screenwriting.  And an electrifying starring performance by Benedict Cumberbatch.   (Plus, it’s English.  I am always a sucker for a really green lawn.)

Even though the storytelling ultimately surrenders to the tried-and-true trajectory, it generally does so in an intelligent, believable and original manner. 

Aaron Sorkin without the wiseass. 

And no “Tom Edison!  Stop fussing with that silly light bulb and come to dinner!”  

I have little aptitude for describing performances.  I can only say that Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing was this year’s Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln.  Total immersion.  The actor embodies the character and personally disappears. 

Final Tally:  A conventional undertaking elevated by an actor who has convinced himself – and, for long stretches, me as well – that it isn’t. 

As a man named Pedro who had fourteen children when he heard I had two children once said:

“Better than nothing.” 


JED said...

One of the reasons Mr. Turing was not given special dispensation in consideration of his service during the war was that his (and the others at Bletchley Park) service was considered top secret until the mid-70s (I think).

His work before, during and after the war had a profound effect on the developing science of computing but he was not the only one. But he was one of the most important ones.

PG said...

Have you had the pain and pleasure of seeing Benedict in"Parade's End" ? I think it's on HBO on Demand. In it, he glorifies the Brirish 'stiff upper lip' to great effect! You'd love it.