The Imitation Game : A Review

I want you to do something difficult. Please bear with me. I want you to imagine that you are the man in the street. You’re not a member of CCS, you don’t read Resurrection and although you’ve heard of Alan Turing you’re a bit hazy about him. Codebreaker! That’s the chap! Invented a machine for breaking German codes. Colossus, that was it! [No it wasn't : Ed.]

But you’re sufficiently curious to go and see The Imitation Game. You probably thought it was a really good film. And indeed it is. Beautifully filmed and brilliantly acted: Keira Knightly was excellent despite all the criticism. You might cavil at some of the period detail - Tipp-Ex hadn’t been invented in the 1940s, nor indeed were there any railway carriages designated “standard class”. But these are issues for nitpickers. You came away satisfied. Fine drama altogether.

Trouble is you’re not the man in the street, you’re the person on the Information Superhighway or you wouldn’t be reading this. You know a fair amount about Turing. You’ve read a bit about him. You might have seen Hugh Whitmore’s 1996 play Breaking the Code (Derek Jacobi, Prunella Scales, Harold Pinter) on the BBC. Heavens, you might even have read Alan Hodges’ biography.

This makes life more difficult because you’re looking at this film with different eyes. You’re seeing it as a documentary. And it isn’t. To be sure the basic facts are there but in between them dramatic licence has been employed to a degree you’ll probably find unacceptable. You’ll pick holes in the plot. Lots of them. Things that you “know” didn’t happen.

So do go and see it by all means. Or wait for it to come on TV in a year or two. But treat it as a drama, not a serious historical account. That it is not. For that the BBC version is to be preferred.

Dik Leatherdale