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An Enigma Plays The Imitation Game

Updated on April 2, 2015

An investigation of a burglary at a man's home in 1950s England turns into an investigation of the man himself in The Imitation Game. The burglary occurred at the home of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a mathematician and leading expert in code breaking. Turing was never the most sociable of people, but Detective Robert Nock (Rory Kinnear), who investigated the break-in, learned something during routine questioning that Turing had kept secret from most people.

During World War II, Turing had been recruited along with other academics by the British military. The military wanted the sharpest minds to work on a project to crack the codes the Nazis send their military on their Enigma machine. Early in the war, The Germans stayed one step ahead of any Allied moves by sending German forces secret codes that they changed daily. After an initial interview with Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance), Turing almost loses a chance to serve on this team. As he's leaving his very short interview, Alan starts talking about how he'd break the code, which gets the attention of Lieutenant General Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong). Menzies decides Turing, in spite of his personality issues, would be an asset to the code breaking team, which works from a place called Bletchley Park, miles away from London, under the guise of working in a radio parts factory. One of the things they did there was to develop a machine, despite reservations from Denniston, that would help them decipher German messages.

In time, Turing heads the team, and gets permission to see if others possess code breaking talent. That search leads to the addition of Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), the only woman on Turing's team. Not only does Clarke see patterns in the messages that had not been recognized, she also helps to make Turing a little more accessible to the others. For awhile, Alan and Joan were engaged. After that, they worked together, but at least one of Turing's team thought Alan was the reason the engagement came to an end. Nock looks into Turing's service record, which has many more questions than answers. He also takes a look at the person Alan invited to the house just before the home invasion.

The Imitation Game, which is based on a Turing biography by Andrew Hodges, thoughtfully shows how much differently a man like Turing was treated in an era where attitudes about men and women were more rigid. In public, he behaved like an educated man with trouble in the department of social skills. He could have attempted to live a life with Joan, who accepted Alan for the man he was. Alan, however, felt both deserved better. Further, they were at Bletchley Park to take away an advantage the Nazis had with Enigma, and any personal feelings had to take a back seat. Graham Moore's screen adaptation works fine, but it focuses so much on Turing and Clarke, the other people on the code breaker team don't get a chance to show personality. The Imitation Game marks the English language debut of Norwegian director Morten Tyldum. Tyldum does a good, but unexceptional, job of covering the basics of Turing's life. Turing's achievements were amazing, so I wish the film had done more to celebrate these things.

Cumberbatch is filled with confidence and awkwardness as Turing. Alan know that the project needs come with a huge cost. When Denniston balks at the price of the equipment that Turing requests, he asks his superior who's above him. When Denniston tells him to contact Winston Churchill, Turing surprises Denniston by doing just that. Yet, Alan has a problem with connecting with the team with him. When Joan suggests Alan do something nice for them as means of encouragement, he responds by buying all of them apples. His love of crosswords and cryptographs, which started as a schoolboy, also help him in the Enigma project. Knightley shows care, smarts, and humanity as Joan, the one person who can reach Alan on a personal level. She gets a part in the code cracking by finishing a challenge Turing poses faster than he expected. A part of her never stops caring, even after the war, as she returns to the private sector, and he continues his computing work. I also enjoyed Dance as the ever-skeptical Denniston, as well as Strong as the patient Menzies, who understands that intellect also comes with a bit of eccentricity.

In The Imitation Game, a group of intellectuals come together to find a way to decipher messages the Nazis worked hard to keep a secret. Without the machine Alan Turing imagined and helped to devise, the Allies might have lost the war, as the various combinations would have taken many lifetimes to understand. When one war ended, Turing found a more personal war continuing. Some secrets were meant to be kept for the sake of his nation and the world. Other secets in Turing's world, though, turned out to be more dangerous in their own way. Still, Alan Turing left a legacy beyond helping to in a war. The work he started has grown into innovations that are so useful to so many, including anybody who writes on a blog or a website.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Imitation Game three stars. Telling the tale of Alan Turing, and the secrets he had.


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    • indianreel profile image

      HK 2 years ago from London

      Absolutely a wonderful movie and a good review here.