The Imitation Game – Movie Review


A three-rotor Enigma with plugboard (Steckerbrett)

A three-rotor Enigma with plugboard (Steckerbrett) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Based on a series of true events, the movie tells the story of how a team of young bright mathematicians cracked the Nazi code that helped the Allies win World War II.  Prominent among them was, a brilliant, young Alan Turing, who was a British computer scientist, mathematician, logician, philosopher, marathon runner and is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.  And he was a homosexual.  A small seemingly irrelevant details about his sexual orientation, at a time in history when homosexuality was a crime, also makes this beautiful movie, a devastatingly sad one.

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) was recruited by British Intelligence Agency M16 to crack Nazi codes, including Enigma, which was considered unbreakable.  Turing’s team included Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), Hugh Alexander (Matthew William Goode), Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong), and John Cairncross (Allen Leech).

During World War II, strongest weapon of the Axis forces were their Enigma machines, which were largely unbreakable and enabled them to plan and communicate their strategy, unhindered.  Turing and his team built a machine to break the code, that allowed Allied forces to intercept Axis communications and gave them access to information that ultimately helped the Allied forces win the war.

Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park - geograp...

Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park – geograph.org.uk – 1591025 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The focus of the film is primarily on the time that Turing spent at Bletchley Park.  Bletchley Park was the central site of UK’s top secret, code breaking operation.  It is presumed that the “Ultra” intelligence produced at Bletchley shortened the war by two to four years, and that without it the outcome of the war would have been uncertain.  Besides Turing’s team, there were a whole cadre of brilliant young women working on manual code breaking, and “Bletchley Circle”, a mini series, recently aired on PBS, tells the story of four women who reunite years later to track down serial killers.

In 1939 however, this was such a top secret operation that everyone was forbidden to share any details of their work.  At the end of the war, these unsung heroes of the war, quietly went home.  The movie is also a sort of an indictment of Britain’s shoddy treatment of these heroes, primarily Turing, who was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual behavior and he accepted oestrogen injections (equivalent to chemical castration), to avoid prison.  In 1954, Turing committed suicide.  His is a story that needs to be told and kudos to Director, Morten Tyldum and Screenplay writer, Graham Moore for bringing it to the screen.  Cumberbatch has done a fabulous job as Turing.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.8.

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