The Imitation Game cracks the code

Adi Levin, Contributing Writer

The Imitation Game, released Nov. 28, is a stunning film that captures the true story of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a mathematician who was instrumental in cracking the Nazi Enigma machine during World War II, and was later prosecuted for comitting “homosexual acts.”  Every day, Enigma would change its settings completely, requiring Turing to create an incredible machine to counter it.  By intercepting encoded German messages, he and his team were able to pass valuable information to the Allied Forces, saving thousands of lives and shortening the war by two to four years. Over the years, many people built on the idea of the “Turing machine.”  Today, it is better known as the beginning of the modern computer.  It is hard to understand the magnitude of what Turing and his coworkers at Bletchley Park were able to accomplish and even more incredible to think that so many of us are carrying devices that stem from his machine.

The Imitation Game certainly did Turing’s story justice. The writers did an excellent job of highlighting Alan Turing’s accomplishments and relationships with the people in his life.  Of course, it is a drama, so the story was somewhat embellished.  For example, contrary to real-life accounts of Turing’s personality, Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Turing comes across as a bit unfeeling, rolling with whatever punches life threw him.  However, many think that the film did an amazing job of sticking to Turing’s already incredible biography on which the movie is based: Alan Turing: The Enigma, by Andrew Hodges.

With a beautiful score written by eight-time Oscar nominee Alexandre Desplat, and an all-star cast, The Imitation Game is bound to enthrall everyone who watches it.  Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Allen Leech, and other celebrated cast members do an extraordinary job of portraying the ups and downs of his experiences with the Enigma, as well as with the British government.  The Imitation Game has won numerous awards, including nine awards from the acclaimed British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and is nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture.

Not only did The Imitation Game detail Turing’s experience decoding Enigma, it was also a multifaceted portrayal of Turing’s relationship with those around him—in his childhood, his best friend and first love, Christopher Morcom (Jack Bannon), his co-worker John Cairncross (Allen Leach), and his ex-fiancee, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley).  The film did an incredible job of expressing Turing’s sense of helplessness in his relationship with Morcom.  Before Turing could finally express his affection for his friend, Morcom died of tuberculosis, leaving Turing with only a memory and a name for his machine, “Charlie.”

Turing’s situation with John Cairncross was fictionally complicated, as the two were not connected in real life.  In the movie, Cairncross was the first one to reach out to Alan, serving as an initial ally.  However, tension heightened between the two when their group heard that a Soviet spy was in their midst.  Everyone immediately suspected Turing, although Cairncross was the actual spy.  Alan quickly discovered this incriminating fact, but Cairncross threatened to reveal Turing’s homosexuality if he revealed Cairncross’ treachery.

Turing’s connection to Joan Clarke was a significant plot point.  The only woman working on cracking Enigma at Bletchley Park, Clarke was brilliant and determined.  Turing decided to propose to Clarke to cover up suspicions of his homosexuality.  However, Alan ultimately broke off their engagement, deciding he could not drag Clarke through it.  Clarke was more like a friend to him than a partner.  The two remained friends until Alan’s death.

Overall, the creators of the award-winning period drama did an excellent job of transferring Alan Turing’s story to the screen.  The result was incredible. Benedict Cumberbatch made Turing seem sensitive and distanced, and The Imitation Game is definitely a movie to be remembered.  Audiences laughed, marveled, and cried at the story of a genius who saved lives but was forced to give up his own.