The Imitation Game

The story of how English mathematician Alan Turing cracked the German Enigma code by inventing Google search.  🙂

This interesting and absorbing film manages to explain both the nature of the Enigma problem, and the mechanism for solving it, in a manner accessible to a general audience, without doing (too much) violence to the underlying science. It’s not often that the dramatic climax of the movie can be summarized as “the machine stops.”   As the title character says in the opening sequence, though, you have to pay attention — this is not the kind of movie where you can go out for popcorn in the middle and still be able to follow what’s going on.

Benedict Cumberbatch gives a wonderful performance as Alan Turing — perhaps more Asperger-y than some of Turing’s friends remember him, but still a recognizable human being. Keira Knightly does her best work in years as Joan Clarke, the program’s lone female mathematician.

Turing’s homose*xuality is treated matter-of-factly in the movie, as Turing apparently treated it himself.  If anything, the real Turing was even more open about his orientation than the movie version — somewhat astonishing given that it was a criminal offense at the time.  A few years after the war, Turing was convicted of indecency and chose chemical castration over a prison term.  In the movie’s sad little coda, we see how this notionally humane alternative had profoundly disturbing effects on Turing’s self-image ( among other things,Turing reported growing breasts). which probably led to his suicide a few years later.

As is typical in this kind of movie, some characters are composites for dramatic reasons, and the actors are better looking than their real-world counterparts.  Many of the more startling scenes, though (the nailed floorboards, the marriage proposal, the existence of a Soviet spy at Bletchley Park) are absolutely true.  Most astonishing of all, Turing wasn’t posthumously pardoned until 2013 (which likely explains why this movie, based on a biography written in the 1980s, wasn’t made until now).

Highly recommended.

There’s nothing here a kid couldn’t see (all the s*x is off-screen) but it’s a talky movie and very small children would probably be bored.

And on DVD

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