The life of famous WWII codebreaker Alan Turing is told in the new film The Imitation Game. The movie flips back and forth between Turing's life as a young boy in boarding school, to his days as part of the team hired by MI6 to crack the German Enigma Codes, to the time of his arrest for Gross Indecency (basically for being gay). Sliced in between this is footage of WWII; bombings, sea battles, air raid shelters and bombed out London which gives the film a true feeling of being there at that time in those places.
Turing is the man credited with inventing the Enigma machine. It translated German codes into English which helped the Allies defeat the Nazi's in several crucial battles by finding out the German army's positions and plans. Turing's contribution is said to have saved many lives and shaved at least two year off WW2. And Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing is a revelation.
Alan Turing was a prodigy, but according to the movie he was also an outcast. He was taunted and teased while he was in boarding school, including at one point having food thrown all over him. His classmates regularly beat him up, and one time they shoved him under the floor boards in school, trapping him under a piece of furniture. We are also told that Turing had a close friendship with a fellow classmate whose name was Christopher. They were inseparable, and the film leads us to believe that love was blossoming between the two. Whether this is factual or not is the question.
The film begins in 1951 when Turing's Manchester flat has been burgled, burgled by a friend of a young man who Turing was having a relationship with. During the investigation Turing admits to having a sexual relationship with the young man, and they both are charged with gross indecency.
In his 20's, Turing is portrayed as a loner. He enjoys running in the countryside, and when he's hired by MI6 at the age of 27 to work at 'The Betchley Radio Manufacturing Company,' it's a time when he excels and blossoms, but when he's assigned to work with a group of men, he is uncomfortable and doesn't quite fit in. These men include ladies man Hugh (Matthew Goode) and Scottish John (Allen Leech). One woman does join their ranks, Joan Clarke (played by Keira Knightley), and we are led to believe that Turing emotionally fell in love with her and even asked her to marry him. At first Turing's male co-workers don't like him - they find him different, so Joan suggests Turing to do something nice for them, so he brings them apples, and then they all bond. Was life so simple back then?
Turing creates his machine, at great expense, much to the dismay of his commanding officer Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong). Disarmingly, Turing names his Enigma machine Christopher, in honor of his school boy crush, who Turing is told has simply disappeared from school. So history shows that Turing and his team were instrumental in helping to end WW2. But unfortunately later in Turing's life it would all come to naught after he was convicted for having committed acts of homosexuality.
The title of The Imitation Game comes from a paper that Turing wrote in 1950 which jump-started the new realm of artificial intelligence (though Turing called it mechanical intelligence). And we are told that this film is based on a true story. But how much of the film is true and how much was made up turns the movie not into a true life account of a genius and a true account of Turing's life but a film that is entertaining, well made - an excellent achievement, which, however, leaves the viewer to be skeptical of the story.
Cumberbatch is superb. He perfectly plays Turing in all stages of his adult life. We see through him the pain of being an outsider as well as the joy of cracking the code. It's a performance worthy of an Oscar. Knightley is surprisingly good as Turings 'love interest.' As her character never existed, Knightley is tasked with bringing emotion and femininity into the film. She succeeds. The standout in Turing's team is Goode. But is he who he says he is?
Director Morten Tydlum (Headhunters) has beautifully crafted a movie that plays as a history lesson. And all technical aspects of the film are outstanding; from the costumes to the luscious cinematography, to the sets. But it's the script that most people will have a problem with. Screenwriter Graham Moore, in writing his first film script and who is credited as an Executive Producer, took many liberties in writing this film. Whether this was done to make it more commercial and exciting, it has succeeded. But it's not a 100% portrayal of the life of Alan Turing, it plays out just like any other film. Perhaps someone in the future will make a definitive documentary on the life of Alan Turing. Two attempts to tell his story - the 1996 television movie 'Breaking the Code', and 2011's 'Codebreaker' - were just that, attempts, and it was hoped that The Imitation Game would be the definitive story of Turing's life, but alas it is not. But Turings life, and legacy, live on.
Turing eventually committed suicide one year after his arrest (1952). In 2013, Queen Elizabeth pardoned him. What took so long.