Wednesday, September 10, 2014

TIFF 2014: The Imitation Game

Cumberbatch as Turing
The Imitation Game directed by Morten Tyldum, 113 minutes, Princess of Wales Theatre, 3p

It is only now being revealed how Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a highly gifted Cambridge mathematician, worked with a band of mathematical geniuses, including its sole female participant Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), to crack the Nazis' Engima code and effectively helped end World War II. When war was declared in 1939, Turing was tapped to become a member of a top-secret group under MI6 which is assigned the task of decoding German naval communications at the Government Code and Cipher School at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.
The Enigma machine enabled its operator to type a message, then ‘scramble’ it using a letter substitution system, generated by variable rotors and an electric circuit. To decode the message, the recipient needed to know the exact settings of the wheels. (Source:
Turing and Clarke become close friends despite his prickly and off-putting nature and in order that she remain working in this all male establishment without conjecture, the couple are engaged to be married despite the fact that Turing is gay at a time when it is illegal to be openly homosexual.

Within two years the code is cracked but the government conceals this revelation as it would cause the Germans to change their coding system. It continues to conceal this information until well after the war. Turing's work presaged the creation of computers which he worked towards after the war.

Cumberbatch is rightly recognized as being an actor who is able to play any role and here he does not disappoint. Turing is portrayed as quirky, erudite, mercurial, and self-involved but eminently brilliant.

Turing's role was unknown and unrecognized after the war. The group was ordered to destroy all documentation when the war ended. In the early 1950s, Turing was arrested for indecency and was ordered to undergo chemical castration. He did so in lieu of imprisonment but within two years he committed suicide with the aid of cyanide. Who knows what he might have created if he had lived. 

In 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown officially apologized on behalf of the British government and the Queen granted him a posthumous pardon on December 24, 2013.

It's a remarkable story that brought us both to tears at its end.

Alan Turing

P.S. On September 14, 2014 The film was chosen for the People's Choice Award at TIFF - always a good omen for Oscar nominated films!

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