Monday, 16 February 2015

The Imitation Game

Thanks to a friend's treat, I attended a preview of the Oscar nominee The Imitation Game before it is officially launched at local cinemas at the end of this month.

I must confess that I didn't know much about the film before watching. I only heard that it is based on the life of Alan Turing, the gifted British mathematician who is acclaimed as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. His Turing Machine, created to break the German ciphers during the Second World War, is often considered the first model of modern computers.

Technically, The Imitation Game is a smooth, absorbing historical thriller in which one finds little distraction. Turing's joining to the cryptography team and the development of the Turing Machine at Bletchley Park is both entertaining and breath-taking. Thanks to a great team of actors and actresses led by Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes in TV series Sherlock) and Keira Knightley (female lead of Begin Again), the acting performance is largely apt and succinct.

However, what I don't like much in the film is the flashbacks of Turing's childhood memories of his unspoken romance for Christopher Morcom, his best friend at school who ignites his interest in cryptography. The flashbacks seem a bit too much and excessively explicit, twisting the episode into a melodrama that fails to touch the heart. Naming the Turing Machine "Christopher" is more than enough to articulate how much Turing misses his best friend, who dies young of tuberculosis. The snapshots of their friendship and hidden romance just seem unnecessarily long and embellishing.

To me, Turing's delicate relationships with his colleagues, including the only female member Joan Clarke (played by Keira Knightley), are the most enjoyable parts of the film. How their relationships change over time gives a vivid account of the misery of solitude of prodigies. While they can be messengers of God to pioneer changes in human life and mind, they are often abused, banished, defamed, destroyed and forgotten by contemporary fellow men and women, simply because they are tasked with achieving something unthinkable and unforeseeable for the ordinary souls. Turing is no exception. In this light, showing how Turing deciphers the German enigma only serves to present his unrivalled talent in logic, mathematics and cryptography. It is more important to explain that his loneliness can be attributed to his incapability of communicating with other people effectively. Unfortunately this seems to be an inborn defect of many prodigies, whom few, if any, truly understand and follow their way of thinking.

In the case of Turing, he should have been honoured for what he has done for the people of Britain, Europe and even the rest of the world. But his intelligence in turn makes him one of the most dangerous men who should not be allowed to live longer than needed. His sexual orientation, something extremely personal and has nothing to do with his career, then opens the door to persecution and leads to his eventual demise. Worse still, he didn't receive a posthumous pardon from Queen Elizabeth II until 2013, almost 60 years after his death.

Apparently The Imitation Game is a piece of creative work rather than a truthful account of Turing's life. I believe there are plenty of twists and tweaks to the details, in order to make the plot more entertaining. But if this film were meant to deliver any message or moral lesson, I'd say it reminds us that the genuine tragedy of Godsend talents lies in the fact that they can only live posthumously.

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