The Imagination Game, a true story starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing and Keira Knightly as Joan Clarke, Turing’s co-worker, friend, short-term fiancé, and confidant, is really three stories in one. The first is about Turing the young boy at a British boarding school who is really, really smart (he does his own math problems in math class because the teacher’s are way too easy). Then there is Turing, the mathematician who, because he is really, really smart (he can do the Sunday crossword puzzles in minutes) is recruited to work on cracking the code used by the Nazis to keep their communications concerning troop movements and orders secret. And finally, there is Turing as the gay, who because he is really, really smart is completely incapable of dealing with the vicious attacks (and torturous medical treatment) by the authorities. The most noticeable attribute of the film, is its ability to flawless blend together these three periods of Turing’s life into one, ongoing story of the man most responsible for breaking the Nazi code that lead to the downfall of the Nazi war machine (as well as laying the groundwork for development of the modern computer).
Cumberbatch plays the role of Alan Turing perfectly. You really get the feel that he is an intellectual snob, who has little regard for the ideas of others, and finds it tedious and impossible to deal with other humans. He should be good at this as he played a virtual carbon copy of this role in Sherlock Homes an excellent BBC production where he plays the incredibly intuitive and somewhat arrogant detective.
The underlying theme of the entire movie is how so many people have a tendency to look down on anyone who is outside their definition of normal. This even includes people who simply have incredible intelligence or talents you would think society would envy and value, not scoff at. But as the movie portrays, there are many, many people (often banded together as “organizations”) who fend off their own feeling of inferiority by targeting others who they label as different or worse.
Turing is targeted by the less-than-brilliant simply because he is brilliant. Then he is targeted by others who (because he is gay [another subject excellently handled in this movie]), feel they have a right to tell him how he must live and behave.
I had a friend who saw the movie who said its message was that intolerance exists in every age and that now as a geezer he finds himself to be “less tolerant of the intolerant everyday.” He’s basically sick of having to listen to people who feel they have guidance from above (or wherever) that gives them the right to criticize, belittle, and intimidate other human beings. Living in Idaho (as I once did), I’m sure he knows a lot of people for whom intolerance is a way of life. But what you would expect from a state with the motto “Diversity, education, Californians, Democrats—who needs ‘em?”
The Imagination Game (you’ll understand the title when you see the movie) is one of the best pictures of the year and well worth the price of a geezer ticket.