Saturday, 17 January 2015

Thoughts on 'The Imitation Game'

A gutless and immoral movie has been nominated for eight Oscars including Best Film, Best Director and, perhaps most offensively, Best Adapted Screenplay.

That film is The Imitation Game.

Alan Turing
It's gutless because it cannot bring itself to look directly at Alan Turing's sexuality. Yet as the end credits roll, and emotive music kicks in, the film tries to position itself as a plea for equality. This is disingenuous. Even though Turing is surrounded in the film by good looking men, not once is he seen to give them even a sideways glance. Worse, Turing's relationship with Joan Clarke, important in real life, but a sidelight, is here moved to the centre of the story and decorated with the familiar tropes of a cinematic heterosexual love story: romantic picnics, furtive glances, close shots, and so on. In feeling a need to anchor the film with a love story - a need it's easy to dispute - the filmmakers have chosen to play it straight. Gutless.

The film is immoral because it represents Turing as a traitor when he was no such thing. It has him working with John Cairncross, the Soviet spy thought to be the 'fifth man' of the 'Cambridge Five' that included Philby, Burgess, Maclean and Blunt. When Turing confronts Cairncross on his activities, the spy replies that he knows that Turing is homosexual and that he will reveal this should Turing spill the beans. Turing keeps Cairncross's secret to protect himself. It is a traitorous action.

In real life, Turing never met Cairncross. In trying to juice up the narrative - an often necessary thing, but really not so here - the filmmakers have done Turing a profound injustice.  

Some might say that this is drama, not documentary, and exists for entertainment, not enlightenment. Some might say that we expect films to be loose with the facts. All this is true. But let's remember that screen and stage are powerful storytelling media that affect people's opinions and values. Sometimes they need to be held accountable. There are many in the world who now believe that Turing's sexuality was not important to him and that he was a traitor. Neither is true and both lies malign one of the great figures of the twentieth century.

This is a shallow, formulaic film and one that insults Turing, his sexuality, and the public's ability to cope with anything other than the familiar.

It is not deserving of an Oscar.

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