The Imitation Game: A Fascinating Film About a Fascinating Man


Robby Jones, Staff Reporter

Are you paying attention? Good. Otherwise, you might miss one of the best movies of the year.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, the mathematician who has been hired by the government as a member of a code breaking team who intends to break the German Enigma machine. During the process, he builds a code breaking machine which is able to break the ever changing enigma code in a matter of minutes as opposed to the entire day.

The movie follows three periods of time during Alan Turing’s life, one during his childhood at a boarding school, one during the second world war when he was working to break the German’s Enigma coding machine, and one during the time leading up to his suicide in 1954.

While the movie begins in the 1950’s, it will be easiest to begin with Turing’s boarding school days. Alan (played by Alex Lawther during the boarding school scenes) is a lonely young boy without friends and a constant target for pranks and bullying. He befriends another boy named Christopher who reassures him and helps Alan to feel better about himself and not be quite as shaken up by the school bullies.

One day Christopher gives Alan a book on cryptography, which causes Alan to begin writing codes and passing them back and forth with Christopher. Over time, Alan falls in love with Christopher but has his heart broken as he is about to tell him. Christopher was incredibly sick and died while on holiday. But for Alan, the difference that Christopher made in his life would always stay with him.

After several years of encroached academic success, the government calls on Alan for help breaking the Enigma code machine used by the Germans. Alan joins a team of six men who quickly go about attempting to break the formula. The code is simple enough to break but is changed every day at midnight precisely. This proves to be a problem because there are over 159 million million million possible combinations. Turing realizes that decoding by hand is pointless and soon devises a machine that will need to be built to crack the code in minutes, which he names “Christopher”.

When his funding is turned down, he goes over the head of the operation’s commander, writing to Winston Churchill in order to gain both funding and control of the operation. After cutting two of the less essential members of the team, Turing replaces them with two others. The most notable of these two is Joan Clarke, played by Keira Knightley. Joan intrigues Alan and he pulls every string he can to get her into the program, even going as far to propose to her in order for her to stay on the operation. (Yes Alan Turing was gay, but this was not publicly revealed until the early 1950’s and the two never did marry each other.)

After a number of setbacks and breakthroughs, Turing and his team finally crack the code to Enigma and suddenly have an advantage over the Germans. However, it must be kept secret so that the Germans don’t change their methods of encoding. The facts behind Turing’s code breaking mission were kept secret until the 1990’s.

After the war, Alan settled into a quiet life as a teacher. Unfortunately, after a break-in, the police officers sent to investigate get suspicious of what Turing has been up to in his home. The detective on the case does some more digging, eventually uncovering the story of the machine Christopher from Turing himself. Through this investigation, it is made publicly known that Alan Turing is a homosexual which, at the time, was a crime in Great Britain. Turing was then found guilty of indecency and sentenced to hormone therapy. After a particularly gut wrenching and well acted scene from Cumberbatch, the audience is learns the rest of Alan Turing’s story, most importantly that Turing committed suicide after one year of hormone therapy and was posthumously pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013.

The Imitation Game is a supremely well made movie filled with well written dialogue, strong characters, and perfect acting, especially on the part of Cumberbatch. He plays somewhat against type for this movie. While he is usually cast as intelligent characters, they’re usually characters that are confident and self-assured. In The Imitation Game, his character is far more self conscious and, for lack of a better word, dweebish. Benedict Cumberbatch received an Oscar nomination for his performance and he earned it, especially with the final scene in his home. This is a perfect example of a scene that is so hard to watch, yet impossible to turn away from.

I give this movie a 9.75/10 simply because no movie is perfect and there are one or two things that make less sense as I continue to think about them. For instance, there’s a scene that shows how Turing found the other members of his team that drags a little bit and Keira Knightley doesn’t completely convince me that her character was as smart as she says. The performance is good, but I’d have found it easier to believe that she was just very good at puzzles as opposed to a genius at mathematics, like the film said. Either way, the movie was fantastic. See it if you haven’t already.


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