Sacrificing History for Story


I was never an enormous fan of Johnny Cash as a child. That being said, I remember watching Walk The Line and being captivated by it. The music was fantastic, and I was surprised by the strength of the story.

From that point on, I grew to love biopics. Despite the creative license these films tend to take, they introduce me to aspects of history I wouldn’t have known much about otherwise. Milk and A Beautiful Mind in particular stand out, as does the most recent one I saw.

The Imitation Game tells the story of the forefather of the computer, albeit with some fictionalized aspects. Alan Turing was an English mathematical genius in the mid 20th Century. Published at 23, Cambridge Fellow at 27, he was recruited into a secret military program tasked with breaking the German’s infamous Enigma Code, which none of the world’s most powerful countries at the time could crack. What resulted from the team’s effort was the world’s first computer.

The film is at once a moving, powerful story and a wonderful tribute to a genius who was never truly appreciated in life as he was in death. The work completed by him and his team remained a complete secret until decades after V-E Day. On top of all that, the most unexpected message surrounded civil rights. Turing was homosexual during a time when it was considered a crime of indecency.


***Spoilers for the film ahead***

Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley steal the screen as Alan Turing andfellowncryptographer Joan Clarke, coworkers turned ‘romantic couple’. Granted, the film exaggerates the nature of their relationship and adds in plenty of additional components to make the story more dramatic and exciting.

Besides making Turing far more awkward in the film than he was in real life, the film jumps through time to tell as much of Turing’s story as possible. There’s the story of the Enigma Code and Project Ultra during WWII. There’s a police investigation in the early 50s and the resulting castration. And there’s a series of flashbacks depicting his boarding school years with his closest (and only) friend, Christopher. When Turing creates the computer that cracks the Code, he names it Christopher. Years later, when criminally charged for his sexual identity, he elects to chemical castration instead of imprisonment so he could remain with his only link to his childhood friend.

This is the core of The Imitation Game’s story: Turing’s enduring connection to Christopher and his desperation to honor him, for Turing first learned of cryptography (the study of codes) through Christopher. It’s also the film’s biggest inaccuracy, much to the chagrin of historians, for there was no Christopher. The way the film reveals information, from the significance of breaking the Enigma Code to the reason behind Turing’s decision to avoid prison makes the historical inaccuracies completely worth it.

***Spoilers Over***

Sacrificing historical accuracy is fairly common in biopics. Most audiences don’t particularly care, however. Movies are about entertainment, and while the accurate story is compelling in its own right, The Imitation Game tells the same story with its own Oscar-worthy flair, complete with just enough relevant social commentary. I enjoyed the movie more than I was expecting, and I’d been eager to see it ever since it came out.

Man, I love good biopics.


If you’ve seen The Imitation Game, let me know what your thoughts are.

 I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I haven’t checked it out, I’ll add it to the list!

One thought on “Sacrificing History for Story

  1. I actually just recently watched the Imitation Game (like maybe a couple of weekends ago?) and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was! I, too, love a good biopic and I feel like while there are many great ones there are also often times big flops. This was an all around good movie, and I really enjoyed reading your review of it!

    Liked by 1 person

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