“The Imitation Game” Would Benefit From More Sex and Fewer Lies

You shouldn’t watch “The Imitation Game” without also seeing “Breaking the Code,” the 1996 film based on Hugh Whitemore’s play. The source material for both is Andrew Hodges’ book, “Alan Turing: The Enigma,”  but the approaches differ so that the two films at times seem to be about two different people. The earlier film stars Derek Jacobi as the mathematician who, with his invention of the computer, broke the Nazi code and helped shorten World War Two by two years. It focuses more on Turing’s sex life than his employment as a code breaker, yet is closer to the historical facts in regards to the latter.  “The Imitation Game,” like “The King’s Speech,” is negligent of history, but serves as a stunning platform for its chief actor.  Unlike Jacobi, who played up Turning’s speech impediment, Benedict Cumberbatch is smooth and eloquent, even when his  speech hits the walls of expressive confusion.  Both actors are top notch, but Jacobi, being the more immersed, is less concerned with wooing the audience.  Furthermore, “The Imitation Game” does not do justice to Turing’s homosexuality, limiting it  primarily to sentimental flashbacks related to a schoolboy crush, and used as an explanation for Turing breaking off his engagement with a quasi-fictional character played by Keira Knightley. Yet “The Imitation Game” is the more politically correct of the two films, concluding with a denunciation of laws criminalizing certain sexual activities.  With the recent victories for gay equality in both England and the United States, the necessity for playing the Oscar Wilde card seems a bit outdated.   Whitemore’s “Breaking the Code” opened on Broadway in 1987, a period  of tremendous struggle for gay rights when plays such as “Burn This,” “Torch Song Trilogy,” and “Bent”  were bringing greater visibility to the movement.   Now, a quarter of a century later, Cumberbatch’s desexualized Turing is a sad reminder that  assimilation has its price, and  everyone should know by now that this week’s tears are scant compensation for blood shed across the centuries.

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