“The Imitation Game” is a tight period piece, a biographical film about Alan Turing and the effort to crack the code of the Nazi’s Enigma machine in the Second World War. The machine changed its encryption every day at midnight, much faster than the cryptographers could solve. The film is quite compelling throughout and well acted, especially by the lead.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing in his every twitch and clueless glance. Turing was not only an obsessive-compulsive character and a genius, he was the type who is unable to pick up on social clues and who alienates nearly all of his peers. We are introduced to his lack of social grace early in the film as he takes everything literally, is arrogant and brutally honest, and misses the humor around him.
‘Movie poster for ‘The Imitation Game.’ Courtesy/flicks.com
A Cambridge mathematics professor, Turing offered his services as a cryptologist to the British war effort, arriving at the “radio factory” in Bletchley Park where enemy messages were received and recorded. The government asks Turing to join a team of cryptologists and linguists whose sole purpose is to crack the code of Enigma.
If we believe the film’s position, Alan Turing’s team and project not only saved Europe from absolute tyranny, but changed the world and computing technology forever. The suspense of this quest keeps us on the edge of our seats throughout the film. Tension within the team, Turing’s odd ways, and the addition of a female team member, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) all add to the drama.
Flashbacks are used to explore Turing’s emotional development. He tells the story of cracking the Enigma machine and explains his personality quirks with scenes of his school days, befriending, then suffering the devastating loss of, his dearest friend. The question in all of this is: is Turing “a man, a machine, a war hero or a monster?”
The film is highly recommended as a significant piece of history and a well-wrought drama. It is also a fine movie about inequality—of the place of women in the 1940s and of people perceived as “different”, especially those who prefer their own gender. Can we imagine that anyone different than ourselves might do the unimaginable?
It is rated PG-13 due to a few of these references, mild violence in fistfights, and film clips of Nazi aggression.