“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
Adapted from Andrew Hodges’ book Alan Turing: The Enigma, the history-inspired period movie, The Imitation Game, is a cross between A Beautiful Mind and The King’s Speech.
The Imitation Game tells the true story of the British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and pioneering scientist Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), who was recruited by MI6 during World War II to crack the Enigma code.
It’s a nail-biting race against time following Turing, the pioneer of modern-day computing, and his brilliant team at Britain’s top-secret code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.
Turing isn’t like other people – he’s so much more advanced, discounting his social skills, which is why he works so well with machines. He doesn’t have any meaningless data in his head clogging it up. He only retains useful information and with the task in hand it’s a good job he does. When time is a commodity that the country cannot afford Turing must work fast. Lives depend on it.
His mission is simple; crack the code, end the war. But rather than use the available resources which slow the team down Turing designs and builds what we know today as the first super computer in his attempt to decipher the German communications.
The Imitation Game certainly has a lot going for it, including high production values, a beautiful score, a love story and a social message.
But undoubtedly the best thing about this movie is Cumberbatch’s performance. The good news for so-called “Cumberbitches” is that, at least on the big screen, their man has never been better.
Turing, whose contributions and genius significantly shortened the war, saving millions of lives, was the eventual victim of an unenlightened British establishment, but his work and legacy live on.
For a man who was instrumental in helping to defeat the Nazis, Turing is not nearly as famous or celebrated as he should be for a variety of reasons. Much of his work was kept secret for decades. Unfortunately the genius isn’t here to talk it about it himself.
And quite frankly, if he were, he might be discouraged from doing so, based on the social awkwardness with which he was almost as associated as his intellectual genius. Many experts believe that Turing was probably afflicted with Asperger syndrome; he was certainly on the autism spectrum, at a time before such diagnoses existed.
Cumberbatch is perfect for this character and it’s hard to think of anyone else today who could inhabit it. The actor nails the vocal and behavioural manifestations of someone dealing with those sorts of issues. His performance gives added complexity to a fine account of the life of Turing. He deserves an Oscar.
He has an excellent supporting ensemble, led by Keira Knightley, who seems to have decided to take a break from giving dire performances. She plays Joan Clarke, Turing’s faithful sidekick in matters professional and personal. Plus Matthew Goode and Mark Strong, two consistently dependable actors.
Some may take issue with certain elements of the movie – the historical accuracy of the Turing-Clarke relationship, the failure to really explain how Turing’s device worked and the claims that Turing’s efforts were the difference between victory and defeat in a number of battles and indeed the war itself.
So let’s look at the facts. Turing cracked the Enigma code and shortened World War II by two years and saved 14 million lives. He was treated as a common criminal, simply for being homosexual at a time when it was illegal and was chemically castrated. When he ended his life a few years later the world lost one of its most brilliant minds.
The Imitation Game covers all of this and admittedly lacks development in some areas but I’d much rather see a movie about the genius Alan Turing, rather than the usual atrocious romantic dramas Knightley normally heads up.
“History is the depository of great actions, the witness of what is past, the example and instructor of the present, and monitor to the future.” – Miguel Cervantes
By Ruth Walker