My husband and I went to see The Imitation Game, a biographical film about Alan Turing, who invented a prototype of the computer.
The somewhat enigmatic title, The Imitation Game, refers to the question and answer game Turing proposes to a cop who suspects that Turing is not only a homosexual, for which he was arrested, but also a Soviet spy. In this game the inquisitor should decipher if the brain that answers the questions is a machine (that imitates humans) or a human. The insinuation here is that Turing is in some ways machine-like, which is demonstrated earlier in the film in his dysfunctional interactions with his colleagues. He does not understand the “speech act” function of language, comprehending only the literal meanings of sentences. The title also seems to have another more covert significance because Turing, who was a homosexual, seems to imitate a straight/normal guy for most of the film which focuses on his work as a German code-breaker at Bletchley Park for British government intelligence agency.
The film is somewhat awkwardly structured with a jumbled placement of the frame narrative, which is Turing’s imminent incarceration for his homosexuality several years after the war. (For instance, one would say if Turing’s conversation with the afore-mentioned cop is used at the very beginning of the frame narrative inducing the core-narrative of the film, that is Turing’s invention of the Nazi’s code-breaking machine, the film could have been more effective.) The film also suppressed Turing’s homosexuality for most of the film’s running time; instead, it emphasized his semi-autistic behaviors. Nevertheless, I found the film thoroughly engrossing. To start, Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Turing humanized him considerably despite his many eccentricities making it possible for us to develop affections and/or respect for Turing. The film as a whole worked very well as a sort of intellectual thriller for the birth of a code-breaking machine/ computer. (I thought the film did a good job representing the birth of a computing machine that was used to decipher German war communication.) The film also worked well as a thought-provoking political expose regarding the state’s power that can play god with people’s lives through its use or non-use of intelligence. The film dramatized the effect of suppressing the information regarding the imminent German attack on a passenger ship by having the brother of one of Turing’s colleagues on the very ship. (This incidence also makes us realize that the record of Turing’s work at Bletchley was destroyed perhaps to hide this ethically ambiguous government behavior in the early 1950s when Turing was arrested for indecency.) In addition, the film was effective to show the problematic state power that can severely punish a person, such as the brainy war-time hero Turing, only because of his/her homosexuality – even when it does not seem to harm anybody.