A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
Published January 3rd 2015
Breaking the Code
The Imitation Game was first shown as the closing film at the British Film Festival in 2014. The British really know how to do historical productions to perfection. This is the true story of mathematician Alan Turing.
He is a revered figure and pioneer in information technology. But this film takes us to many other aspects of his turbulent, troubled and gifted life. Some dramatic license has been taken with the plot, which is only apparent to those who have heavily researched his life.
The Imitation Game tells the story of Turing, a child prodigy, portrayed with many autistic traits, a lonely boy from a privileged background who didn't fit in. He has one beloved friend who disappears. Setting the scene for a life of loneliness and isolation.
Turing, the Cambridge mathematician is interviewed and recruited to crack the enigma code. The majority of the film centres on Turing's work at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. There is a meeting of minds here with other code breakers. The interplay of these characters is at the heart of the film. Turing's colleagues are repelled by his arrogant and distant manner. But he does forge a link with a gifted woman mathematician, Joan Clarke who faced her own set of discrimination. The film is able to build up the narrative of espionage, secrecy and subterfuge. All the while a parallel storyline emerges of Turing hiding the man he really is.
The film has garnered much praise for the standout acting performances of its ensemble cast. Particularly for the two lead performances of Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing and Keira Knightly as Joan Clarke. However the whole cast work together exceptionally well.
There is a side plot of a police investigation into Turing that occurs in the era many years after the war has ended. The police inspector becomes a code breaker of sorts, as he searches for answers. An interview sequence occurs that brings together the ideas of what is human and what is a machine. Turing's only friend is seen as his machine creation, named in the film after his childhood friend. Questions are raised as to how we know if someone is telling the truth. The script is very perceptive, if occasionally overplaying its hand. For example forced dialogue about making a 'digital computer'.
Winston Churchill was a huge admirer of Turing, crediting him with making the single biggest contribution to Allied victory. This makes Turing a heroic figure of his time, which has only recently been given recognition by Queen Elizabeth.
As one who had no background on this story it is better to let the film use its narrative power to tell what came after his time spent as a code breaker. As a modern day viewer it is sometimes easy to frame things in a modern context. To question motives and facts as to how people lived and what choices they made. How could risks possibly be so great, and yet they were.
In the hands of lesser filmmakers a historical biopic could land in the heavy handed category or worse a slow vehicle for a list of facts and figures. Morten Tyldum, the director has kept the pace and intrigue of this story very much alive.
Turing had a mind that needed to solve problems. Not only those of equations and codes, but of logic, philosophy, information and communication. He and this film open up wider questions of modern day surveillance, intelligence and the reasons for fighting a war. A multilayered film that deserves a wide audience.