Alan Turing, a pivotal code breaker during World War II, was almost completely unknown until the release of this movie. A hero who contributed a master plan for breaking the German military codes, Turing ultimately sacrificed everything . He committed suicide in 1953 when his homosexuality was called out. Being gay was a crime punishable by imprisonment, not only in Great Britain but in most of the West.
For many years, breaking Enigma—the Nazi code believed to be unbreakable—was considered a top security secret under the Official Secrecy Act. The Enigma machine, brought to Bletchley where Turing lead the “brainiac” team, was finally disassembled and re-engineered by Turing and his co-workers. With the computational power of the Bombe, a machine Turing co-developed, the brainiacs came to understand the Enigma. Turing is considered the father of modern computers.
“The Imitation Game” is named after the quest to differentiate machine from brain, coining the term “artificial intelligence”. It could as easily indicate the trials and tribulations of Turing as a child and as an indicted “criminal” for his homosexuality— “imitating” what conventional norms dictated in British society. Additional plot points are introduced with the historical figure Joan Clark, (one of many women code-breakers at Bletchley, played in a confident, nuanced interpretation by Keira Kneightley) who adds a human interest element of friendship not based on sexuality but on mutual respect for mathematical genius. Kudos also to the excellent performances by the ensemble cast including Charles Dance , Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, and Mark Strong.
The drama and the personal sacrifices Turing made are a spellbinding narrative that flows seamlessly in this film. Benedict Cumberbatch, as the stuttering, socially inept Turing, is as much a thespian genius as Turing was a mathematical one.
The movie holds the audience’s attention due to the brilliant way Cumberbatch has inhabited Alan Turing’s psyche. His malaise amplifies the tension of the tragic consequences he will have to endure for his sexual identity.
For those who wish to know more about the women code-breakers (more than 80% of the total brainiac team), watch “The Bletchley Circle”, a PBS series loosely based on these women after the war had ended.
[Note: “The Bletchley Circle” is a series of whodunits available on Netflix. And Alan Turing was finally “mercy pardoned” and acknowledged for his contributions to ending the Second World War on December 23, 2013 by Queen Elizabeth of England, but she did not pardon the other 60,000 imprisoned for similar charges of “gross indecency”.)