“I don’t think it tried to tell the whole story”: Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Imitation Game Failed to Impress One Country That Felt Left Out for Their World War 2 Efforts

Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Alan Turing as the sole creator of the Enigma code infuriated Poland.

“I don’t think it tried to tell the whole story”: Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Imitation Game Failed to Impress One Country That Felt Left Out for Their World War 2 Efforts

SUMMARY

  • The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, unfortunately did not adequately recognize Poland's crucial contributions to World War II.
  • Although mathematician Alan Turing’s efforts at Bletchley Park were the main subject of the Oscar-nominated film, Polish codebreakers' contributions before the start of World War II were not acknowledged.
  • Thus, Poland was upset about being overlooked in an otherwise fantastic film, despite being an unsung hero in the fight against Nazi Germany.
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Within the genre of historical film, some epic stories frequently take center stage, with others being neglected or pushed to the side. This is the case with the highly regarded film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which unfortunately did not adequately recognize Poland’s crucial contributions to World War II.

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Although mathematician Alan Turing’s efforts at Bletchley Park were the main subject of the Oscar-nominated film, Polish codebreakers’ contributions before the start of World War II were not acknowledged. Thus, Poland was upset about being overlooked in an otherwise fantastic film, despite being an unsung hero in the fight against Nazi Germany.

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To recap, Alan Turing and his team’s thrilling journey to decipher the German Enigma code is told in The Imitation Game. While the film’s emphasis on Turing and his remarkable achievements is understandable, the $233.6 million film’s narrative inadvertently overlooked Poland’s role in developing the precursor to the Enigma code-breaking machine.

Benedict Cumberbatch in a still from The Imitation Game (2014).
Benedict Cumberbatch in a still from The Imitation Game (2014).

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Poland’s World War II ‘Contribution’ was Overshadowed in Benedict Cumberbatch’s 2014 film

Benedict Cumberbatch received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of mathematician Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. However, Poland was disappointed that its ‘significant contribution’ to deciphering the Nazi Enigma code was overlooked in the film.

As reported by The Telegraph, according to the Polish government, Polish codebreakers were critical in assisting British allies in breaking the German system and saving lives by shortening World War II.

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Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game (2014)
Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game (2014)

Early Enigma codes were successfully cracked in 1932 by Polish mathematicians, including Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki, and Henryk Zygalski. Shortly before the war, these mathematicians gave their discoveries to their British counterparts. Poles also showed Turing how to construct machines that mimicked the Enigma machine.

And, thus, Turing used Polish research to develop the more advanced computer at Bletchley Park that was able to crack the upgraded wartime code. Despite this, The Imitation Game skimmed the surface of Poland’s significant role, something that many historians and filmmakers overlook.

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The Telegraph was informed by Maciej Pisarski, the then deputy chief of mission at the Polish Embassy, that he was excited to 

“Fill in the blanks…right this wrong and put this picture in a more complete way. I am sure it is a very good movie but I don’t think it tried to tell the whole story. It’s important to do justice to the people involved but to underline and underscore the strong cooperation between Britain and Poland when it came to Enigma.”

To correct misconceptions about the issue, Poland launched the historical exhibition Enigma: Decipher Victory, which honored Rozycki, Zygalski, and Rejewski. 

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Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

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Benedict Cumberbatch Discussed Playing Alan Turing

With the overwhelming Oscar buzz surrounding The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch’s widely acclaimed performance as the genius Alan Turing was poised to catapult him into the stratosphere. In the Deadline interview, however, the actor made it apparent that he was more interested in the role than in the publicity that surrounded it.

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In the 1950s, Alan Turing was imprisoned for being gay and had to receive estrogen injections after aiding in the defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II. When Deadline inquired about his knowledge of Turing at the time of his casting, Cumberbatch responded, 

“Not an awful lot. The feeling you have for the man after getting to know him through the duration of the film is really exacerbated by the frustration and anger, not just at the injustice served him, but also at the fact that, why don’t I know this story? It seems unbelievable that someone who is a war hero, someone who is the father of the modern computer age—and a gay icon—could remain in such relative obscurity to the scale of his achievements in his brief time on this planet.”

Benedict Cumberbatch while cracking Enigma in The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch while cracking Enigma in The Imitation Game

Despite having only a $14 million production budget, The Imitation Game became the highest-grossing independent film of 2014, with over $233 million in worldwide receipts. There were three nominations for the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards, five nominations for the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, and eight nominations for the 87th Academy Awards.

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Alan Turing’s genius is brilliantly captured in Morten Tyldum‘s film but Poland’s brilliant contributions to the war effort were not given enough credit.

The Imitation Game is streaming on Netflix.

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Written by Siddhika Prajapati

Between everyday normalities and supernatural abnormalities, Siddhika Prajapati finds the story in everything. Literature Honors Graduate and Post-Graduated in Journalism (from Delhi University), her undying need to deduce the extraordinary out of simplicity makes her a vibrant storyteller.

Serving as a Senior Entertainment Writer at Fandom Wire and having written over 1000 pieces, Siddhika has also worked with multiple clients and projects over the years, including Indian Express, India Today, and Outlook Group.

Who knows, maybe your next favorite persona on the screen will be crafted by her.