The Imitation Game
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The  Imitation Game

Frequently in history, course and name and recognizing as one of significance but in so many cases are unaware of the true scope of the individual’s contribution to civilization. The history Channel has constructed an entire slate of programming with such series as ‘10 Things You Didn’t Know…’ Or any of a number of episodes or specials that go deeper into the life of famous person. One film that became quite famous for the Academy award nominations and notable cast was ‘The Imitation Game’, a biopic concerning one of the computer age is most important founding fathers, Alan Turning. His most notable contribution by understandably be considered ‘The Turning Test. Consider the most reliable method of determining if the computer has achieved a true, sentient form of artificial intelligence. In a blind test of the interview is unable to determine whether he is seeking to a preprogrammed computer over human being in the test subject is indeed a computer it is deemed to have achieved artificial intelligence. While this is a worthy accomplishment to place a man in the history books and almost inevitably pulled out with any film touching on the theme of artificial intelligence or the singularity, but it does not begin to scratch the surface of what this man accomplished to the direct and lasting benefit of mankind.

Another piece of history that has achieved status of general knowledge is that one of the major contributions to ending World War II in the European theater without breaking the code system used by the Axis powers referred to as The Enigma. All superficially at work to be a regular typewriter of the time it was indeed an elaborate cipher machine that could pass messages nearly impossible to decode. Breaking the secrets of this new encryption technology alternately turn the tide of war potentially saving millions of lives. Looking back at my own world history classes and after questioning a number of people it appears that not much is ever discussed about Alvin turnings contributions to hacking Enigma. Turning instrumental to that achievement yet only a few years later he would be prosecuted for a sex crime in England, homosexuality. With gay rights same gender marriage hot topics in the current soco-political arena it would seem that the time has finally come to pull back the curtain to what many consider to be a shameful truth about that time. A man was instrumental in spraying the tide of a global conflict because of who he might love. Before going much further into an examination of should be noted that while civil rights advocacy representing the LGBT community praised the film there was also a vocal detractors that cited inaccuracies of the facts including those regarding turnings relationships. Ultimately, this is a film primary purpose is entertainment like any such work the veracity of what is presented is subject to the use of dramatic license.

Not long after the conclusion of World War II, 1951 a pair of police detectives are investigating the mathematician Alan Turning (Benedict Cumberbatch). They break into his home and take turning into custody. This provides the director, Morten Tyldum is an ideal segue into the necessary back story and exposition. It was 1927 and the young Turning was attending boarding school and found himself constantly bullied by the other boys. It was one student that Turning was able to befriend, Christopher Morcom (Jack Bannon), a young man with a keen interest in cryptography. Mutual admiration began to transform into more romantic feelings but before they could fully manifest Christopher would succumb to tuberculosis. The war in Europe broke out in 1939; Turning was sent to Bletchley Park where he was to join a group of the best mathematicians the Allied Nations possessed. The project was as secret and crucial as one being done in the United States, The Manhattan Project sure to use the new breakthroughs in physics to develop a strategic weapon. The project at Benchley Park presented the illustrious team of mathematicians with a different objective; break the Enigma Code. Achieving that would be an intelligence coup that would allow the Allied high command and unprecedented look at the proposed enemy troop movements and understanding of the tactics being employed by the Nazis.

The elite group of civilian mathematicians was led by professional soldier, Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance), which uncovered a similar port that is inherent when minds so brilliant that they defy the boundaries defining their own fields and place them under the propensity for compartmentalization and control upon which the military was founded. This was a set of circumstances that would also trouble the exceptional physicist assembled thousands of miles away charged with creating the atomic bomb. The Commander, a pragmatic administrator, declined a request of his team to provide the proper funding and staff to construct the machine necessary for the success of their project. Turning and his colleagues felt so strongly about their work that they wrote a letter and going over Dennison’s head, sent it to Winston Churchill. As a result the funding was provided in Turning placed in charge of the effort. After dismissing a couple of the team members is deemed into unsuitable work, Turning devises an intriguing method of advertising for replacements; the places the request as a solution to a deviously difficult crossword puzzle.

The considerable strength of this story is how it this juncture, the second act, the movie becomes fundamentally driven by the traditional tropes and archetypes for a wartime espionage thriller. Turning has an epiphany that leaves him and his team working solution deciphering the enemy code. They also discover that there is a Soviet spy working among them. The spy tries to justify his activities by reminding Turning that Soviet Russia is part of the Allied Alliance and despite threatens the black male Turning with exposing his homosexuality is dual allegiance is made known. Pressing even more heavily on his mind is a dilemma that directly influences the use of his new, successful device. If the Nazis discover that the Allies are able to understand the most secret communications they would immediately change the methodology and rendering all their hard work useless. Should also become quite a quagmire for the High Command of the decoded message instigated an action that would make it obvious to the Germans that their coded communications have been compromised. This became the choice that had to be made allowing the English city of Coventry heavily damaged by the Luftwaffe despite the fact that they had already decoded the message giving those orders. Despite his and credible contribution to the success of the war effort, during the 1950s Turning was convicted of indecency but instead of the jail sentence that would normally be handed down he was subjected to chemical castration instead. His homosexuality required punishment on the part of the government but those same people wanted to continue to use his intellect and skills.

The issue of homosexuality, specifically in a person has gained such fame not only in World War II but in bringing us into this digital world we now take for granted, greatly polarize a significant portion of the audience. Both sides of the spectrum would seek to make this into a controversial film instead of allowing the focus to remain on the lifesaving efforts of a mathematical genius. Most people will concede that they were major alterations made under the ever popular heading of dramatic license. Usually the rationale for these changes is to make the story more presentable as a screenplay and select those facts that needed to be highlighted to retain the critical points of the people involved. Once again I have to advise people interested in the life of Alan turning to take the time and effort to do some actual research utilizing a more scholarly writings on his life and contributions. There is one aspect that both sides would have to agree upon that is the magnificent performance of Benedict Cumberbatch.

This actor has been a shining star in the spotlight of late with three short seasons on British television portraying a modern incarnation of the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes. His ability to play a detached genius of unrivaled perception and analytical skills brings offered hot indoors most famous character to life in a fashion that has really been achieved. He also played one of the most infamous buildings in the Star Trek Universe, Khan. For relatively young man he has a quite an impressive list of credits in both film and television. You can choose any at random and be certain that you are going to see one of the most amazing performances you could ever imagine. It is rare that an active can have such control, such ability to bring out nuances to her character, as is evident in all of Mr. Cumberbatch’s body of work. This is the first movie per region filmmaker Morten Tyldum in English. There’s actually no evidence of the required learning curve. Stylistically is still is brilliant, paste perfection the subtlety to help the development that is mesmerizing. This is an intersection of several genres; war, espionage and prejudice, not only are the constituent categories expertly juxtaposed but they mutually overlap in such a fashion that an amazing synergy is achieved. That energy that rises from the screenplay provided by, Graham Moore, and based on the novel by Andrew Hodges, makes this a story there and inexorably you into it over your full attention until the final frame of the closing credits.

Posted 03/21/21

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