“The Imitation Game” is surprisingly watchable.

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game.

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game.

Personally speaking, the prospect of watching yet another costume drama with all of those actors who are in all of the other period pieces is about as appealing as an extra Maths grind on a balmy summer’s eve. But The Imitation Game is surprisingly watchable .

Benedict Cumberbatch is Alan Turing, and Turing was, genuinely, one of the most remarkable individuals of the 20th century. If you’re unfamiliar with his story, and you very well might be as it’s only very recently been unearthed, then I’ll not give too much away here. As all the best stories do, the drama of his life unfolded in both the public and in the private spheres.

In the public sphere, Turing was head hunted by the top secret wing of the then “non existent” MI6 as they desperately tried to unpick the enigma code. This was the code that the Germans used to disguise their daily broadcasts of where their troops were and what they were up to. It had over 159 quintillion – that’s 159 followed by 18 zeros – different combinations that were changed every day. Turing almost single handedly cracked it, and you could make a very strong case for suggesting that his was the most important contribution to the whole of the second World War.

Kiera Knightley together with Cumberbatch.

Keira Knightley together with Cumberbatch.

In the personal sphere, he was demonstrably autistic which inevitably leads to albeit unintended offense. As there’s always the suspicion that your obnoxious behaviour might very well be just that, merely obnoxious and have nothing to do with your autism. And, he was also gay.

Which is all well and good when you are attending the sort of male only public school that the British send their elite to. But which becomes an enormous problem when that same society then condemns and indeed criminalises those boys who grow up to be young men who prefer the company of other young men.

La Knightley.

La Knightley.

Cumberbatch is appealingly prickly as the irascible boffin, and Keira Knightley is as ever much better than anybody ever likes to give her credit for. And yes, obviously mathematicians don’t look like that. But do you really want to go to the cinema and watch a film peopled by characters who look realistically like mathematicians and code breakers?

The Imitation Game is an unashamed love letter to Alan Turing. But if ever an individual deserved one, it is surely he. Whatever device you’re reading this on wouldn’t have been possible were it not for Turing. If any one person can be, Turing can genuinely be credited with having personally invented the computer. His contribution to the world, in war and peace, is immense. And it’s only right that the society that so callously condemned him in his life should belatedly celebrate him in death. And the resulting film is surprisingly moving and appropriately stirring.

You can see The Imitation Game‘s trailer here. And this review also appears on State.ie here which obviously you should all be reading as avidly as you do this.

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