You’ve probably heard of The Imitation Game (2014) — the biopic of World War II codebreaker Alan Turing, who was prosecuted after the war for being homosexual, and then committed suicide. Current heartthrob Benedict Cumberbatch played Turing in this flick, which won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. But did you know there was already a biographical movie about Turing, and it was based on the same source material as the 2014 film? The screenplay for The Initiation Game was based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges. This book had previously been adapted into a play (1986-1988) and a BBC movie (1996) titled Breaking the Code, both starring Derek Jacobi as Alan Turing. Let’s compare the two!
The Imitation Game: Playing Fast and Loose With History
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The Imitation Game is a cliche Hollywood-style biopic about an eccentric inventor struggling against all odds to fight the good fight. The story often turns sentimental or grandiose, milking every relationship for extreme drama, whether conflict or romance. The plot is wholly predicable, and it’s only livened up by occasional bad jokes at the expense of the characters. Worse still, the movie is a false history of Alan Turing, making him into a wacky queer science superhero instead of someone more subtle, intelligent, and sublime.
Cumberbatch fights the power!
According to multiplenewsarticles and Wikipedia (and what I’ve read of Hodges book, plus the interviews I’ve heard from Hodges), the only elements in the movie that are accurate to Alan Turing’s life are that he worked on breaking the Germans’ Enigma code during World War II, and after the war he was arrested for homosexual acts, which were illegal at this time. Oh, and he did have a childhood “first crush” named Christopher (but no, he did not name the code-breaking machine after him), and he did propose to Joan Clarke during the war, she knew he was gay and didn’t care, but he broke it off (amicably) before the war ended.
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- Breaking the Code: A True Story by a Hells Angel President and the Cop Who Pursued Him By Pat Matter and Chris Omodt The Real Deal, LLC, 2014 ISBN-13: 738. Violating the outlaw code is seen as the biggest faux pas a biker can make in the “life.” Pat Matter, a former President of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in Minneapolis.
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Pretty much everything else in the movie is a fabrication. Various historical figures are misrepresented or mish-mashed together or left out entirely, the whole Soviet spy subplot is wedged in without merit, a mawkish “playing God” narrative is added (the kid with a brother on ship that’s going to get destroyed by U-boats? Total BS), and Turing and his unrealistically tiny team of four are given credit for the work of hundreds.
Yes, Alan Turing did amazing work that was practically ignored in his lifetime, and he died tragically. But wow, talk about exaggerating to make a point. Also, there’s plenty of debate about how socially awkward and practically autistic Turing was in reality — Cumberbatch’s performance makes him seem like a self-isolating freaky genius when actual contemporaries report that Turing was simply a little eccentric but rather nice to work with. Oh Hollywood. Must you? This is much like Amadeus (1984), where Mozart is made into a giggling rouge caught in a mortal artistic duel with Salieri (that story, of course, began in Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus). The trope of the ‘crazy genius’ is nothing new, but is this the only way audiences can understand an atypical protagonist? Really?
The Imitation Game feels like a missed opportunity to me. Alan Turing was a brilliant person who made amazing contributions to the world, plus his life was cut short quite probably because of the prosecution due to his being gay, and he deserves recognition. His story should be told. I suppose some will say it’s not a bad thing for him to get a big-budget movie starring a very popular actor. The film was nominated for a ton of awards and won an Oscar (screenwriter Graham Moore gave a particularly moving speech), plus it won a GLAAD Media Award for outstanding representation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Still, watching it, I felt emotionally manipulated, and I could just smell that the history was off even before firing up the Internet. It’s not good history, and the more I read about Turing, I feel like the truth would have been far more fascinating on screen.
The amazing breakthrough! (Not.)
Oh, the costumes, right … It’s the 1940s, if you can’t get that right, you don’t deserve a job in film or TV. They’re fine for wartime Britain. Add that into the minuscule column of things The Imitation Game did correctly from a historical point of view.
Breaking the Code: Historically Accurate but Talky
After watching The Imitation Game, I found out about Breaking the Code (1996) and had to track it down. It’s shorter, only an hour and a half vs. the nearly two hour running time of the later film, so the story is a little condensed. Also, this TV movie is very obviously a straight-up adaption of the play Breaking the Code. This has pros and cons. The biggest con is that there’s very little action — the film is almost entirely talking, all the scenes are two actors (usually Jacobi and someone else) in a room, sorting through stuff verbally. This makes for a very think-y piece, and that’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
However, the dialog is amazing and covers a lot of ground. The movie jumps back and forth in time from the 1950s, when Turing is prosecuted for homosexual acts, to World War II, and to his childhood. The Imitation Game does this too, but Breaking the Code does it much more, yet also more fluidly and elegantly. Also, for not having much action, this film is far more explicit and historically accurate about Turing’s gay life. In the 1950s episodes, we’re actually shown Turning hooking up, and his gay romantic relationships are referred to in the wartime scenes. For that matter, Breaking the Code is more detailed about Turing’s scientific work. Being talky means the characters actually talk out theories of cryptanalysis in the war scenes to explain how Turing and his coworkers will break the Enigma code. Admittedly, some of it went over my head, but it sure gave the impression of, whoa, this guy is a freakin’ genius.
Turing actually gets some.
Derek Jacobi is an excellent actor, as always, though he gives Turing a stutter in this film, and I don’t know where that comes from. Again, this seems to be a filmic way to make Turing seem odd, like he doesn’t fit in. Which is true, Turing didn’t — biographer Hodges really makes the point, in his book and in talks, that Turing was ahead of his time in many ways. But exaggerating Turing’s personality traits for the filmed version is such a cliche, and I’m sorry to see that this early adaption seems to have perpetuated it. Still, the stutter is the only real quirk Breaking the Code gives Turing; otherwise, Jacobi portrays him as a rich, well-rounded, complicated person with a sense of humor and pathos.
As for the costumes, well, again, it’s mostly 1950s with a touch of 1940s, so nothing spectacular, and all done just fine. Since this film has so little action and just a few characters, there isn’t much in the way of costumes to note.
You can watch the whole TV movie on YouTube.
Alan Turing on Film
So I don’t think the ultimate, historically accurate Alan Turing movie has been made. The Imitation Game is all fake bluster and cliches, while Breaking the Code is a merely a talky play on TV. The former makes Turing into a wacky superhero, while the later gets the history right but isn’t super compelling to watch. While it’s great that this founding father of computer science and gay history icon has made it to film at all, I kind of wish he’d get a better movie treatment than he got in life.
Breaking the Code: A True Story by a Hells Angel President and the Cop Who Pursued Him
By Pat Matter and Chris Omodt
The Real Deal, LLC, 2014
Violating the outlaw code is seen as the biggest faux pas a biker can make in the “life.” Pat Matter, a former President of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in Minneapolis, Minn., did just this when he cooperated with law enforcement following the in-depth investigation by the Hennepin County Sherriff’s office and co-writer Chris Omodt. What comes from the experience and the story is Breaking the Code, a true crime book written from both sides of the law. What the book attempts to achieve is to discuss the life that some outlaw bikers live and the difficult decisions they have to make when it comes to their personal code and the desire to keep themselves and their families whole.
It is apparent that the name of the book was chosen in the effort to show that Matter was destined to turn on the members in the Minneapolis chapter. The book, with the help of Omodt, shows how Matter came to that decision. Like other tell-all books in the genre such as former Hells Angel George Wethern’s A Wayward Angel, Matter reveals what life was really like for him in the outlaw life. In addition, the inclusion of Omodt’s story is reminiscent of Retired Special Agent Jay Dobyns’ book No Angel, but without the egotistical self-aggrandizing that existed in Dobyns’ pages. Instead, the book is the romanticized view of the outlaw motorcycle club (hereby referred to as OMC), a young man coming up in the outlaw world, and the pressure of leading an organization while running a criminal enterprise all while law enforcement built a case against him. While the romanticizing of the life is not surprising, this mode of writing was necessary in order to articulate the message Matter and Omodt were trying to get across: Just because the OMC life can be glamorous, it is not always the best life.
Matter traces his desire to join a motorcycle club back to a desire for brotherhood and being part of something larger than himself. Unlike some men who enter the OMC life, Matter was not a veteran having never served in the military, and instead was exposed to the outlaw mentality early on. It was obvious from a young age that Matter was destined to become a statistic following the departure of his father and his absentee mother. Left to his own devices, Matter chose to live the life he wanted to live notching his first arrest at 15. Conversely, Omodt was born into a long line of law enforcement and he seemed destined to follow his family’s path. What is interesting about this parallel in the book is the idea that if Matter had a steady family life he may never have taken the path that he chose.
Given the nature of the way the book is divided between Matter and Omodt, the perspectives provided for a dynamic read. Matter seems to be more of a storyteller than Omodt, then again, it is likely because Matter chooses to discuss his colorful life experiences coming up in the Grim Reapers Motorcycle club and the trials he went through to join the Hells Angels. Omodt, on the other hand, chooses to not be as forthcoming with his personal life, but this seemed a deliberate choice as the authors knew that Matter’s gritty life was more attractive to readers. That said, the format of the book seemed to be such that Matter would write about what was going on in his life and the club and Omodt would respond from his voyeuristic standpoint, discussing what he saw from an outsider’s perspective.
Matter’s candid description of his life touches on many stereotypical or assumed aspects the biker culture. What comes out of this tell-all-book is an earnest account from the perspective of an outlaw. Matter recognizes that the life he was participating in was perpetuating the myth of the outlaw biker and further debilitating his chances of being exonerated once Omodt and the Sherriff’s office were able to gain enough evidence to arrest him.
Breaking The Code Play
As the book starts to come to a close, tension begins to rise as Matter and Omodt share their views regarding the investigation and who was giving information to whom. Though toward the end of the book Matter states that he “didn’t write this book for the purpose of bashing law enforcement,” it was apparent that Matter had little respect for those investigating him and less respect following the rejection of the plea deal he was promised by prosecutor Jeff Paulsen and Omodt. At this point, regardless of the deal being rejected, Matter had already plead guilty and it seemed that he had no choice but to talk, especially after he broke the bonds of brotherhood with his Hells Angels brethren.
What also comes from Matter’s view involves insight into witness security and life on the inside. From here, Matter’s story continues to develop as he grapples with the decision made, however, this is where Omodt’s contribution begins to shift. Omodt, after discussing his opinion of Matter and the investigation, moves toward telling more about his life after the case. Essentially, what Omodt and Matter are doing is discussing how life was going to continue for both of them after dedicating a large part of their lives to being on separate sides of the law.
Ultimately, Matter and Omodt’s story telling is an in-depth view of how OMC life does not function when the code is broken. While there is negativity surrounding outlaw club life, the story of brotherhood is important on both sides of the law. Matter was invested in the club, but it turns out those he trusted most weren’t interested in brotherhood, but rather protecting themselves.
While this book is not a work of fiction, it is not a scholarly work either. The first-person account is biased from both perspectives, but it does show an insider’s angle to the motorcycle club lifestyle, while also providing a narrow view of an OMC police investigation. There is a legitimate voice from both sides in these pages and while prejudiced, the book might prove as a deterrent to those who want to join an OMC, while also giving those interested in investigating them the proper, just, and legal way to pursue those OMC members who participate in criminal activity.
Breaking The Code Movie Download Free
 The outlaw code is a set of written and unwritten rules followed by outlaw motorcycle club members that urges members not to talk about club business, let alone talk to law enforcement about anything involving outlaw motorcycle club life.
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Anthony Saia is a Master’s Candidate from the History Department at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. His thesis explores the influence of outlaw motorcycle clubs in the American West, discussing the creation and evolution of the motorcycle, creation of motorcycle clubs, both outlaw and not, exclusionary principles that exist amongst OMCs as well as the perpetuation of the outlaw image through different facets of mainstream media. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of Idaho in 2012. He is currently in between motorcycles.