“The Imitation Game” movie review

Imitation Game

by Jeff Boudreaux

“The Imitation Game” is the remarkable true story of British mathematician and cryptologist Alan Turing, the genius who cracked the “Enigma” code of the Germans and shortened the Allied effort by as many as four years. Turing, from his accomplishments leading his group of fellow brains at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, is considered a pioneer of computer science with his development of the aptly named “Turing Machine.”

Benedict Cumberbatch gives a positively superstar-making performance as Turing, the brilliant war intelligence hero who hid a major secret most of his adult life: he was a homosexual. The film opens with a break-in at Turing’s residence which prompts the lead police investigator Nock (Rory Kinnear) to delve deeper into the background of this mysterious man who supposedly spent the years of World War II “working in a radio factory.” The film then flashes between his efforts in the war, his experiences in boarding school with a dear childhood friend, to the modern-day 1950’s with his subsequent arrest for indecency.

In the World War II narrative, the British intelligence had been attempting for many months to uncover hidden messages from the Germans in a code labeled “Enigma.” The British even have in their possession an “Enigma” decoder, but since the Germans change the code at midnight each and every day, the results are futile to say the least. It is then that British Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) hires the brash and brilliant Turing to join the team of experts, a move that initially puts off the rest of his team which includes their leader Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode). After many unsuccessful attempts by the group, Turing manages to obtain funding for a planned computation device from none other than Winston Churchill himself while becoming leader of the group in the bargain.

Turing makes some changes to the team and adds the extremely intelligent female Joan Clark (Keira Knightley), an act which instigated a friendship that would continue throughout the remainder of Turing’s life. With some help from her on the outside and his unbridled determination to make a difference, Alan Turing and his namesake machine eventually crack the code that was originally thought to be unbreakable, an act that undoubtedly went on to save many Allied lives.

This film was an excellent character study into one of World War II’s previously unsung heroes. From the initial rejection by his fellow team at Bletchley Park to their triumphant acceptance of Turing constitutes an extremely moving journey of the human spirit. We share in Turing’s joy from his accomplishments in the war effort and drown in his sorrows from his unfortunate personal life where he was persecuted for simply being different.

“The Imitation Game” was directed by Morten Tyldum who makes his English-language directing debut. Based on the biography “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges, we are made to see this fascinating man in every light imaginable and come away with the rich fulfillment of leaving no stone unturned in Turing’s unfortunately short but dynamic life.
***1/2 (Three and a half out of four stars)

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