The Imitation Game
Papa Thumbs Goes to the Movies

By Jorge Figueiredo - December 16th, 2014


For the record, this film is about a historical figure, and so anything written here will probably be a mild spoiler for those who are unaware of the history of Alan Turing. That being said, I feel that after what I have revealed here, readers will still enjoy the movie a lot. You have been warned.

‎If you are looking for a reason to go to the movie theater this holiday season, you should check out The Imitation Game, the story of Alan Turing. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch and ‎Kiera Knightly, the film tells the tale of the Allies’ quest to decipher the mystery behind the Enigma Machine‎, the device used by the Nazis to encrypt and decrypt all of their own communications before and during World War 2. The spotlight shines mainly on Turing’s efforts in this quest (working with the British military), but it also touches on his personal quirks and addresses his horrible treatment by the British government because of his homosexuality.

Alan Turing was a mathematician, cryptologist, and a tinkerer whose quest for validation burned through a mask of his own apparent overconfidence. I was toying with the word “arrogance”, but Cumberbatch has the ability to get the audience to identify with Turing’s need to belong by really placing sharp focus on his obvious inner turmoil. You can plainly see that in many ways, Turing’s genius is displayed in bursts of anger – the sort of anger that forms from years of never being openly taken seriously. Even from the get-go, in an early scene where he is being interviewed by a representative of the British Military (Charles Dance), Cumberbatch delivers more information about the character with his facial expressions and dialogue delivery than most people could do writing extensive exposition.

Alan Turing starts his first day on the job as an I.T. Specialist.

The film jumps around the timeline, splitting its narrative between the “past” (Turing’s stint with the Military at Bletchely Park), the “distant past” (Turing’s childhood), and the “present” (an ongoing investigation into Turing that results in his eventual conviction for gross indecency). While too much of this sort of time-jumping can be confusing, director Morten Tyldum does a great job keeping Graham Moore’s screenplay under control, thanks to great pacing and a solid story.

In truth, I was expecting a typical Hollywood production, with shades of Sherlock (whom Benedict masterfully portrays on television) – after all, what is Sherlock if not a lonely genius?‎ However, I was very surprised, and I enjoyed this biopic immensely. Events unfold in a controlled and relatively believable fashion, with very little in the way of coincidences (though there is one interesting one that I question the existence of), giving the audience an immersive adventure that doesn’t feel contrived.

Aside from Benedict’s performance, I was particularly enamored with Keira Knightley’s portrayal of Joan Clarke, who was one of the code-breakers working out of Hut 8 at Bletchley Park. The relationship between Joan and Alan is complicated – which is interesting considering how important simplification is for both of them. The rest of the cast could, in theory, be played by anyone else, as they would play second fiddle to the two primary cast members portraying to main characters. This is not meant as an insult, of course. All of the other players are convincing, and do a good job – it’s just that the real-life situation was probably similar in that anyone else would really be overshadowed by Turing and Clarke’s brilliance (even though they were all exceedingly intelligent in their own right).

Alan Turing’s short-lived I.T. career ends as he is caught running an illegal BitTorrent server at work.

The film is both thrilling and interesting, revealing more information about behind-the-scenes processes during the war than most residents of the Allied nations will be comfortable with knowing (particularly those who believe that World War 2 was won entirely because of heroism). The movie also shows how horrible society can be to those that walk just slightly off the beaten path. I thoroughly enjoyed The Imitation Game, and I think that this film is a must-watch for those interested in history (especially war buffs). The Imitation Game is currently playing in a theater near you.

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