The Imitation Game

From breaking Nazi codes and basically winning World War II, British mathematician Alan Turing pretty much invented the computer and modern-day artificial intelligence. Then he was chemically castrated for being gay, and poisoned to death with cyanide — either a suicide or a murder, depending who you ask. Last year the Queen granted Turing a posthumous pardon, but nothing really says “we’re sorry” like Benedict Cumberbatch playing him in a posh, Oscar-hungry historical thriller, with Matthew Goode and Keira Knightley as fellow cryptographers. Officially The Imitation Game was sourced from Andrew Hodges’ book Alan Turing: The Enigma, but the movie reads more as a calculated mashup of recognizable Cumberbatch events — Sherlock meets Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy — probably because screenwriter Graham Moore also wrote a novel called The Sherlockian, and director Morten Tyldum also made the zippy 2011 Norwegian thriller Headhunters. Here the brilliant but unsociable hero is a man of tensely over-calibrated poise, perpetually grieving the beloved boyhood classmate whose name his codebreaking contraption would come to bear. In one scene, the forcible turning off of Turing’s machine recalls that explosive confrontation with the uptight EPA regulator in Ghostbusters, except without being funny. Eloquent if not quite a-ha clever, and slightly more mawkish than morally serious, The Imitation Game gives Turing his due, but only partially. Not entirely on purpose, it reminds us that decoding something — in this case, a life — isn’t just a matter of spelling it out.