The Imitation Game

“Sometimes it’s the people that no one imagines anything of, who do the things no one can imagine”

This often repeated quote from the film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbach, is certainly an apt one for this story of British attempts to break the unbreakable Nazi Enigma code used by the Germans to communicate secret messages during W.W. II, which was cracked by a man with a passion for crossword puzzles.  

The story is a fascinating one that puts W.W. II’s allied victory over the forces of aggression in a whole new light, but I’m not sure this film does it justice. The focus of The Imitation Game is on the English mathematician and cryptographer Alan Turing, who not only broke the code but invented the forerunner of the modern computer in the process and was eventually recognized as the father of computer science. 

Like The Social Network (2010), the story is more about Alan Turing’s relationship or lack thereof with his colleagues and his strange anti-social nature, than it is about the Enigma machine or how Turing’s computation machine actually worked and helped to break the German codes. Either the movie doesn’t trust its audience or just isn’t interested with the technical aspects of the story and touches very little on the war itself and the bombing of England by Germany.

Realizing that solving the problem of cracking the enigma code, which changed every day with 590 million new permutations each day, had possibilities that were too numerous for anyone to figure out in a 24 hour period, Turing concentrated his efforts on building a giant calculator using alphabetical symbols that would be able to “break every code, every day, instantly”, using mathematical principals.

Extremely arrogant and condescending to his colleagues, but also brilliant, Turing is here portrayed as a British version of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory or Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network (2010). He could be difficult to work with and had a single minded focus on cracking the code and thus winning the war.

The structure of the film, as with The Social Network, starts with a framing device that has Turing being interrogated by police after his arrest for indecent behavior in 1951, and we flash back as he tells the unusual story of his secret service during the war.

Using intelligence provided by Turing’s team, leaked disinformation and secret lies at the top levels of government the Allied forces eventually gained the upper hand, tipping the balance of the war in our favor. In the end it was a combination of elimination and luck that broke the code, but once it was cracked, the war still continued for years so as not to alert the Germans to the fact that their code had been discovered.

The film has a few too many clichéd dramatic devices and would probably have been better served by a more experienced director, but is helmed instead by Norwegian action director Morten Tyldum in his first big budget English film. 

Still, the film does an excellent job of dramatizing the lives of an intimate group of brilliant nerds stuck in a room agonizing over a solution that will end the war quickly while people are being killed by the thousands every day they failed.



jacquie said...

Nice to read your review of this film. The trailer looks pretty good, but I don't know anyone who has seen it yet so this helps!

Anonymous said...

Might want to see this one ...

Donna Janke said...

I've been intrigued by the trailers for this film. It's good to read your review. It sounds as if I might be interesting in watching, even with the shortcomings you've listed.

Phoenicia Oyeniyi said...

Thank you for this review. I had not considered watching this film but you may have changed my mind.

Anna Khan said...

I have not yet came across this movie. But normally I am interested in such movies. I will have a look on this movie and will get to know how he achieved his goal.

I know that such issues are very delicate and breaking code is not easy but I will know after watching film. How he did that.

Thank you for a great review.

William Rusho said...

I like that, at least, you are being honest about too many clichés in the movie. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon for this movie, they have basically stated it will be the Academy Award winner next year.

Michele Harvey said...

This sounds like a film I would enjoy. It certainly sounds suspenseful.

20Pat said...

My son has been interested in this film and while you point out it's shortcomings no film can cover every aspect in this and do it justice. I think the focus they have taken will make it interesting.