The Imitation Game | 2014
The story of WWII codebreaker Alan Turing has been told before, in Breaking The Code, with Derek Jacobi, but although Morten Tyldum’s film has the requisite Hollywood flourishes (although Turing’s homosexuality is crucial to the film, he’s never seen with a male partner but is constantly partnered by Joan Clarke), it’s still an important and affecting story.
Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a mathematics professor of prodigious abilities but limited social skills (it’s been mooted that he may have been on the Asperger’s or Autism spectrum) who volunteers to help the British government crack the supposedly unbreakable Enigma code used by the Nazi forces during WWII.
The interior of the real Bletchley Park is seen during the bar scenes, filmed in the house's Ballroom. The not-terribly-pretty mock-Tudor-mock-Gothic hybrid mansion, where nearly 9,000 people worked around the clock in drab prefab buildings to decipher German codes during World War II, was scheduled to be demolished in 1991. Its history was for a long time an official secret, but when the estate’s role was finally revealed, it was thankfully preserved and restored. In 1993, it became a museum and has just undergone an £8 million renovation, which also restored the code-breakers’ to their appearance in the 1930s and ’40s.
The building still stands and is now a museum, which also houses an exhibition of props and costumes used in the film.
The exterior seen in the film is Joyce Grove, in Nettlebed, near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, about 40 miles west of London. Joyce Grove is a Jacobean-style manor estate, owned by Sue Ryder National Charity and, until recently used as a hospice. It was built in 1908 for Robert Fleming, grandfather of James Bond creator, Ian, who regularly visited the house.
The Grade II listed house has been seen in documentaries The Real Casino Royale and Ian Fleming: 007’s Creator, as well as such TV staples as Jeeves And Wooster and Midsomer Murders.
For the film, the local village of ‘Bletchley’ is Church Street, Chesham, in Buckinghamshire, at the northern end of the Metropolitan Line. 73 Church Street became the lodging house in which Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) is billeted to avoid the indecorous company of men.
A pillar box was erected opposite 68 Church Street for the site of a clandestine meeting with a possible Soviet spy.
The flashbacks to adolescence, and the introduction to cryptology by his friend and first love Christopher, were filmed at Turing’s actual school, Sherborne in Dorset.
The prestigious, fee-paying independent school, which has roots dating back to the 16th Century, is no stranger to the scree, having featured in both the 1951 and 1994 screen versions of Terence Rattigan’s play The Browning Version, as well as the 1969 musical remake of Goodbye Mr Chips, with Peter O’Toole.
Feeling something is a little odd about the robbery at Turing’s house, Detective Nock (Rory Kinnear) tries to look up the mathematician’s war record at the ‘Admiralty Records Centre’. In fact, the soaring, cathedral-like Gothic space is the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand, London.
London is, of course, featured with King’s Cross Station (yes, the home of the mysterious Platform 9 ¾ in the Harry Potter films) used for the evacuation scenes as the children of the capital are bundled off to the safety of the countryside; and more wartime London was found at the quaintly-named Cloth Fair, tucked away behind Smithfield, EC1.
The 1907 Lethaby Building, until recently home to Central St Martin’s School of Art Campus on Southampton Row at Theobald’s Road, Holborn WC1, provided the interior of the MI6 HQ where Turing meets the enigmatic Menzies (Mark Strong) and where the similarly extraordinary Joan Clarke turns up after answering a newspaper ad seeking crossword puzzle solvers.
The disused Aldwych Tube Station once again serves, as is did in The Krays and Atonement, as the Londoners’ underground refuge from the Blitz. Its red-tiled frontage (still bearing the original name Strand Station) can be seen on the south side of the Strand WC2, at Surrey Street.
When Turing cycles through a devastated Central London, it’s along Chancery Lane (which happens to run behind the Royal Courts of Justice), at Carey Street, WC2, where 80 tons of rubble were dumped in the road and quickly removed over the course of one weekend.