Yesterday was one of those days where I felt like I was rushing everywhere. Ran for class, ran for the tube, ran for the tube again. Thankfully, I caught a break in between to see this wonderful thing: The Imitation Game.
I have to admit that what first caught my eye about the movie was the lovely Benedict Cumberbatch … I noticed his face on the poster long before I registered what the title of the movie was. Some background on my clingy attachment to Cumberbatch: saw him in Sherlock, thought he looked like a walking broccolini, subsequently thought, hmm he actually looks okay, eventually regards him as man-god. And, boy, The Imitation Game was 114 minutes of drinking in the sublimity of those fine, fine cheekbones, and eyes as blue as the sky. *sigh* The giddy excitement and infatuation quickly gave way, however, to pure respect and admiration for both Alan Turing, whose story the movie is based upon, and Cumberbatch’s absolutely stellar performance as him. Turing was a British mathematician during WWII, and the brains behind the invention of a brilliant machine that broke Nazi codes and eventually played a huge part in leading the allies to victory. Quite shamefully, I am terrible at history, and so know nothing much about the war at all, which meant the movie was almost like being in a classroom for me. There was a scene depicting the Blitz over London, and it struck me with considerable force that this city I’m blessed to live in, so utterly enthralling and irresistible to me, was once a scene of despair, chaos and destruction. The idea of a place having existed through such a past and yet is wonderfully stable now is so overwhelming, and it makes me thankful yet sad. Particularly strong was this bit where hundreds of civilians were hiding in the underground tube stations while the air raids were going on outside; the same stations that, today, I hustle through without so much as giving it a thought.
Poignant as the war scenes were, what struck even deeper was Turing’s personal turmoil and struggle with, among other things, his sexuality. Cumberbatch was brilliant with channeling the nuances of Turing’s plight, and the despondency, confusion and incredible loneliness that lay not far beneath the surface of every triumph and accomplishment. Indeed, as Turing recounts his remarkable story to the officer who interrogates him, it’s hard to escape the sense of melancholy and longing that seems to have traced everything he ever did, everything he ever endeavoured for. <possibly spoilers ahead!> The concluding scene, a sad portrait of Turing’s last days spent wasting away under depression and the law-enforced hormone medication he was made to take, was one of the strongest scenes I’ve ever sat through. It didn’t make me want to cry; it wasn’t milking emotion like that. It made a kind of sadness flow through me that ran much deeper than anything that could be solved with tears – a kind of sadness pregnant with questions and frustration.
Me Thinks: A definite must-watch. It can be a bit confusing at times because the story hops across different points in Turing’s life, but you get the hang of it after awhile. It’s a precious and unusual entry point into WWII, from the life of a man who fought battles, personal and public, many miles away from the battlefield where physical conflicts were taking place. It’s also a necessary reminder that things were not always the way they are now, not just with regards to war, but also in terms of acceptance towards people who are different to ourselves (who, really, are not that different at all!). I’ve gained a real respect for Turing, as well as all the innocent people who had to live through that terrible time of conflict.