16-22 January 2015 #741

The Imitation Game

A historical thriller on the man who helped deciphering the “Enigma” machine during World War II
Sophia Pande

I wish I hadn’t known as much about Alan Turing as I did when I started watching The Imitation Game, mainly because while the film is marketed as a historical thriller, it really is just a very good biopic that tells the story of a remarkable man who was instrumental in deciphering the “Enigma” machine during the second World War, an accomplishment that possibly shortened the war by two years and helped save upto 14 million lives.

Turing was an extraordinary character clearly, a brilliant theorist and mathematician who was already a fellow at Cambridge at the age of 27 when he started to work at Bletchley Park, the real life top secret hub of code breakers during the war.

During this terrible war, Britain was being pummeled to death by Hitler’s submarines and aircraft. London was in shambles, and people in the know had realised that the only way to get a lead on the Germans was to be able to interpret the messages sent by the Germans through the Enigma machine, a highly complex code generator whose setting can be changed whenever necessary to create an unbreakable cipher; unbreakable at least by the human mind no matter how brilliant.

Turing is played by Benedict Cumberbatch (of Sherlock Holmes fame) who brings his genius to sparkling life in a film that is as strong as it gets for the subject matter it deals with. Personally, I think biopics are a major risk for filmmakers in terms of the artistic liberties necessary to create drama where some times it may not exist.

In this case, clearly some liberties have been taken if you compare Turing’s biography (written by Graham Moore) with some key aspects of the film, which I will leave to you to suss out for yourself in case I ruin the narrative.

Regardless though, as Turing rushes to try and create a machine (something close to a computer) that can help break the Enigma code, he is aided by an excellent group of cryptographers and spies played by the likes of Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Allen Leech, and Keira Knightley; all at their very British best in a script that was written with a strong ensemble cast in mind.

I have deliberately circled around the plot of the film for those viewers who prefer to be surprised and saddened by the various outcomes of this man’s story, for it is indeed one that deserves to be told and memorialised.

As a parting note, just remember, if things had gone wrong (as often it does in the film world), the part of Alan Turing might have gone to Leonardo DiCaprio – think of that what you may.

Watch trailer