Article Title:Thoughts on The Imitation Game
Author or Credit:Steve Farrow
Published on:4th December 2014 - 08:17 am
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Story ID:16103
Text:The Imitation Game is the most recent iteration of the story of Alan Turing, the man who invented digital computers. He was cracking the German Enigma Code with his Ultra machine (he called it Christopher for good reasons that the film supplies if you watch closely – it is a complex movie) at Bletchley Park in south England during World War II (WWII). He is now also recognised as one of the most original mathematical thinkers of recent generations. Turing’s work before, during and after WWII was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual acts in 1952. Following his conviction Turing chose chemical castration rather than prison. Turing died in 1954, perhaps at his own hand. The film hints at why the Turing family argued against the coronial court’s suicide decision. The Imitation Game is well-crafted film drama rather than accurate history. At that level it is an incredibly good tale. As it switches constantly across the time frames of Turing’s life in well-linked episodes the watcher is asked to work to make the links. Some of them don’t have immediate links but inform the narrative eventually. I attended with someone much more familiar with Turing’s story and who has visited Bletchley Park and seen the recreation of Ultra. I’m told the film shows the correct building but that lots of the rest is drama rather than history. None-the-less, the film is a tour de force from Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and from Kiera Knightley as fellow code-breaker Joan Clarke. One or both should gain at least BAFTA nomination for their performances. And, as we all know, looks don’t matter. None-the-less, Cumberbatch is an incredible look-alike for the historical Turing. Purists about Turing’s history are ambivalent. As an historian who has watched lots of "bad history but great movie" and someone who likes a good film, I recommend The Imitation Game highly. In 2009 Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, released a posthumous apology to Alan Turing. He described the treatment of Alan Turing as "appalling". In 2013 Queen Elizabeth II granted a posthumous Royal Pardon to Alan Turing, only the fourth that has been granted since 1945. Locally and more importantly, there is a petition in NZ right now seeking more than a royal pardon for local men. It requests two things: An apology to those who were convicted of crimes before 1986 that were decriminalised in NZ in 1986; A legislative process for reversing the convictions of those, both living and deceased, in a manner which upholds their mana and dignity. This screening was organised by Roadshow Film Distributors (NZ) and hosted by Wellington’s Penthouse Cinema in Brooklyn. The Imitation Game opens for general release in New Zealand cinemas on 1 January. Steve Farrow - 4th December 2014    
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