Ploumis Reviews The Imitation Game…“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine” – Alan Turing.This quote proves to be a mantra for every one of the characters in the film – the reminder given to one another just when all is hopeless. A reminder I plan to hold on to in my own life.
Directed by Morten Tyldum, book: Andrew Hodges, screenplay:Graham Moore.
Narrated by main character Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), the film begins with his asking us “Are you paying attention?” – a question which I love. There is no time wasted trying to make an audience comfortable here! To the contrary, this opening salvo makes them aware of and worried about what they could miss. I took this warning seriously. Panicked I’d miss something, I was the geek taking notes on my phone in the theater (no I don’t recommend this as my cell phone light illuminated the theater like the bat signal). But my point is, I was hooked from the start.
The Imitation Game is the true story of brilliant Alan Turing and his work on the “Enigma” code during WWII. This is just as much about history as it is about the decryption of communication. The art of what we are saying versus what we are REALLY saying is masterfully highlighted through Turing – which is why it is so important to “pay attention”.Turing is separated from the world because of his intellect and his sexuality.
Turing an enigma
For Turing is a homosexual, a secret he keeps close after the loss of his first love. He was indeed forced by circumstances to learn at a very young age about both loss and the violence that comes from being different. His own comment on violence…“People like violence because it feels good”… is a sentiment not lost on history, and especially the murderous slice of history that gave us the Third Reich and the efforts of Turing and company to put an end to it. And now…speaking of violence…let’s get back to Enigma!
Enigma was the Germans’ (reputedly) unbreakable code used to send and coordinate military attacks. Recruited by MI6, Turing and a small group of mathematicians set out to crack the Enigma code in hope of winning the war for the allies. Turing however, doesn’t exactly work well with others, and his condescension towards the group results in his working alone. At least that is the case until he meets Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightley), an extremely intelligent woman whose parents wish her to get married rather than work – especially with a group of men. After a few white lies, Turing makes sure Joan is working alongside him. The two connect intellectually, and form a very close relationship.
Even for this brainy group, truth be told, Enigma proves a real challenge. Every night at midnight, the German’s change the code they use for Enigma . . . making an entire day’s work of trying to crack it completely unusable. Turing, however, immediately realizes how counterproductive this is and begins work on his “machine” which he refers to as “Christopher” – a decision that will be made clear later in the film. (If I may make a brief historical detour here, the science and technology behind Christopher is the same technology used in the modern day computer).
So Christopher is – in more ways than one – kind of a big deal. However because this was a top secret MI6 assignment, after the war all traces of this effort had to be destroyed. Years later Turning’s name resurfaces, but not as part of an campaign to say thank you” for the contribution he made to his country. Instead, Turing is roundly condemned and charged with gross indecency after admitting his relationship with Arnold Murray. Severe repercussions followed on the heels of this accusation, and it was decades before Turing was recognized for his amazing work.
I loved everything about this film. It was moving and devastating in such a good way. It’s hard to explain, but I expected to feel sad at watching a good man come up against so much intolerance. But in fact, I left feeling stronger than when I went in. I think that’s the power truth has, for despite the gut wrenching story there is unity to be had in struggle. Humanity in all its versions is so often attacked. In the moment – you know the middle of a homophobic joke or an unjust act of stereotyping, it’s easy for the world to forget what RIGHT is. But you can’t separate the right from the truth, not here, not in this film.