Friday, February 20, 2015



From IMDB:


Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain's top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. Written by Studio Canal

Ratings: 8.2/10 from 136,062 users Metascore: 73/100 

Movie Info

During the winter of 1952, British authorities entered the home of mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to investigate a reported burglary. They instead ended up arresting Turing himself on charges of 'gross indecency', an accusation that would lead to his devastating conviction for the criminal offense of homosexuality - little did officials know, they were actually incriminating the pioneer of modern-day computing. Famously leading a motley group of scholars, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers, he was credited with cracking the so-called unbreakable codes of Germany's World War II Enigma machine. An intense and haunting portrayal of a brilliant, complicated man, THE IMITATION GAME follows a genius who under nail-biting pressure helped to shorten the war and, in turn, save thousands of lives. (c) Weinstein

TOMATOMETER 89% | Average Rating: 7.7/10 
Reviews Counted: 226 | Fresh: 201 | Rotten: 25 

Critics Consensus: With an outstanding starring performance from Benedict Cumberbatch illuminating its fact-based story, The Imitation Game serves as an eminently well-made entry in the "prestige biopic" genre. 

AUDIENCE SCORE 93% liked it
Average Rating: 4.3/5 | User Ratings: 75,160

Before Turing and his machine came about Cryptographers used to work like this. Not at all interesting looking if you came for a visit. ©TheWeinsteinCompany

I Probably Wouldn't Be Able To Blog About This Movie If It Wasn't For Alan Turing...

So I finally got around to catch this film at the cinemas. I wasn't disappointed. So for those of you who have yet to see this here's what it's about. Assuming of course you don't get what it's about from the two helpful synopsis above and you still haven't seen it yet. (WARNING SPOILERS COMING UP!! SKIP TO THE END IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT)

It's about Alan Turing of course. Who is Alan Turing? Here's the opening paragraph from his Wikipedia entry:

Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS (/ˈtjʊərɪŋ/ tewr-ing; 23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was a British pioneering computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, mathematical biologist, and marathon and ultra distance runner. He was highly influential in the development of computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of "algorithm" and "computation" with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general purpose computer.[3][4][5] Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.[6]

So basically if it wasn't for Turing our world would look a lot different, we may not have computers like we have today, maybe not even smartphones. But not only was he considered the father of computing but he was also quite important in the success of the Allies in WWII, which also means that without him not only would we not have computers and smartphones but some of us may not be alive and the countries we live in may be very different places. How's that for someone important? Which in a way makes sense to turn some aspects of his life into a movie. 

So a woman shows up at a special room for a special test. It's the 40's. What do you think happens first? ©TheWeinsteinCompany

So on to The Imitation Game. A movie that for the most part tells of Turing's involvement in WWII and more specifically his involvement in cracking the German's Enigma Machine. If you're a WWII buff or into cloak and dagger stories you will have come across stories of the Enigma Machine. A box of wires and gears that baffled the Allies, a box that allowed the Nazi to talk to each other without worrying about enemies listening in and finding out what they were planning. 

So the movie opens in 1951 and Turing now lives alone and is a professor at a University. His house has been broken into but to the surprise of the police nothing was apparently taken. An investigator shows up to talk to Turing and finds him in one of his rooms brushing dust off the floor. Turing tells them to stay back as the dust turns out to be a form of cyanide and even a little could kill them. The investigator attempts to talk to Turing but Turing's blunt and arrogant replies ends the interview quickly and they leave. Upon leaving the investigator suspects that there's something more going on and he begins to dig into Turing's past. Unable to dig up anything including Turing's military history he begins to get frustrated which feeds into his suspicions of Turing. 

Now it's 1939 and we see Turing travel by train to an as yet unknown destination. We hear announcements regarding the Germans and that Britain is now at war with the Nazi's. We also see droves of children gathering at the train station sent by their parents to safer locations away from Nazi targets in Britain. A short while later Turing arrives at Bletchley park. Bletchley Park is a secret location under military control where efforts are being taken to intercept German communications and make sense and hopefully use them against the Nazi. There Turing meets with Admiral Denniston, the man in charge of Bletchley and the man that decides who works there. Turing is there for an interview and a chance to work there. Their meeting is an interesting one with Denniston immediately disliking Turing and Turing proving that he's not what he appears to be. But whatever Denniston's feelings for Turing as a person, Turing is hired.

And she finishes before all the men do. I'd probably not have finished at all. ©TheWeinsteinCompany

A short while later Turing is in a room being briefed on the task he is about to undertake and to meet with his colleagues the cream of the crop from the fields of linguistics and cryptography. They are also introduced to the Enigma Machine. At the briefing they also meet with Maj, Gen, Stewart Menzies from the MI6. 

Soon they're ensconced in their own little building trying to break the Enigma code, except that Turing is tucked away in a little corner trying to break the Enigma on his own. The others try to be friendly with him but his answers are always short and somewhat terse. So they leave Turing on his own.

Now we flashback to when Turing was a young boy and he is bullied at school during a meal. His predilection of separating each item on his plate so that it doesn't touch each other singles him out as odd, strange. So they bully him. He is trapped under the floorboards in the classroom. He yells and bangs at the boards at first but then realizes all that does is satisfy the bullies. He stops and soon the bullies leave. An acquaintance frees him from beneath the floorboards. 

So if you watched this movie you'd think Turing built this machine all on his own. Not true. ©TheWeinsteinCompany

Back in Bletchley, Turing finds out that a complaint has been placed against him by his colleague claiming that Turing is impossible to work with. He tries to speak to Admiral Denniston about this but Denniston only tells Turing that he should file his own complaint before he can do anything about it. That Turing should handle this the proper way, the military way by addressing it up the chain of command. Turing asks Denniston who his boss is to which Denniston says Churchill. So Turing does exactly that, he writes a letter to Winston Churchill which he asks Menzies to help get it to the Prime Minister. 

Not long after that, all of them are gathered in Denniston's office where it appears Churchill has put Turing in charge. His first act of leadership is to fire two of his colleagues. His next is to embark upon the building of a machine that costs 100,000 pounds. This does not sit well with Denniston and what remains of the team. Seeing as how he is now shorthanded after letting go two of his team he begins a recruitment process. He creates a crossword puzzle with a message that says for those that solve the puzzle in less than 10 minutes an interesting and rewarding career awaits them. Those that answer his call are asked to appear at a location where Turing waits for them. When they appear they are asked to perform a task in less than 6 minutes. Menzies is there too and asks him if this is the ideal way to find out if those that come are suitable candidates, Turing tells Menzies that he himself takes 8 minutes to do the same task. Just as Turing is about to administer the task a late comer appears. A woman. She is told that she might be mistaken, that maybe she is instead looking for the room where clerks are being interviewed but Turing notices her from the front and tells her to have a seat and prepare for the test. She finishes the test in under 6 minutes. 

Flashback to Turing as a boy and we see him sitting with his rescuer, a boy named Morcom. They're sitting under with Morcom reading and Turing doing a crossword puzzle. Turing asks him about the book he's reading and Morcom tells him it's about secret codes, about cryptography. Morcom gives Turing his book and tells him that he has a feeling that Turing might be very good at it. 

Just because she's not part of the team it doesn't mean you can sneak important documents over to her place, right? ©TheWeinsteinCompany

Back in Bletchley and Turing awaits the arrival of his two new recruits except that only one shows up. Joan Clarke, the woman that finishes the task faster than he can doesn't show up. He immediately takes off in search of her. He finds her at her home where he soon discovers the reason for her absence is her parents. They don't believe that a young unmarried woman should be off by herself let alone working with a group of men. Turing wises up to this and begins, with subtle cues from Clarke to change her employment circumstances to one where she works as a clerk in a room with other women as well as rooming with other women and going to church regularly. 

So now Clarke is also in Bletchley but since she is working as a clerk she isn't allowed to be part of Turing's work. So Turing sneaks out documents related to his work and takes it to her room late at night. 

Meanwhile, Turing's machine is far from completed and his attitude chafes his colleagues. When Denniston shows up looking for a Soviet spy among them his colleagues make no effort to defend him and since Denniston dislikes him he looks first at Turing's work space.They find nothing damning of course. 

Turing's first computer tasked to break the Enigma code was this big. Computers in later on would fill entire rooms. Aren't we lucky we walk around with computers in our pants. ©TheWeinsteinCompany

After that incident Turing goes back to work on his machine on his own when one of his colleagues Huge Alexander shows up and begins screaming at him for not helping the others, for being selfish in thinking that his efforts with his machine which has yet to prove that it works will be successful. 

Later on during lunch with Joan, Joan advises him to change his ways if he is to succeed at building the machine. She tells him that he needs to make friends not enemies of his colleague. Turing takes her advice in a way and returns to the office with a bag of apples and an attempt at a joke. The joke doesn't work but his colleagues begin to warm up to him. And the begin to help him with his machine which he now calls Christopher.

Flash back to his school days and he is waiting for his friend Morcom to return from holidays but he doesn't. He is called to the headmasters office where he is told that his friend Morcom has passed away due to a disease. Turing feints any knowledge of Morcom and claims that he barely knew Morcom even though others claim Morcom was his best friend, his only friend.

Anytime a movie has a nerd work on a military project he's guaranteed at some point to lose everything, right? ©TheWeinsteinCompany

Back to Bletchley and Turing's machine is still far from complete but Denniston is there with military escort and a representative from the Home Office for a surprise progress check. Turing spots them from a distance and immediately goes in a bolts the door. Denniston orders the door broken down. Inside they shut Turing's machine down despite Turing's pleads and protests. His colleagues show up and tells Denniston that he's making a mistake, that the machine is their only chance at breaking Enigma's code. They also threaten him that if he shuts the project down that they will leave en mass. Denniston gives in and tells them they have a month to produce results. 

A few weeks passes and Turing's machine is still churning away without any results. In between, in order to keep Joan with the project Turing proposes that they get married. He also finds out who the Soviet spy among them is. One of his own colleagues, They have an encounter where Turing is told that if he exposes his secret he'll tell everyone that Turing is a homosexual. Turing keeps mum. Later at the pub with Alexander and Joan and a friend of Joan they friendly discussion turns to talk of her work as a signals clerk. She has the idea that all the messages she's transcribing from the Germans come from one source as every message that comes in begins with the same word. Other messages do not. This puts an idea into Turing's head. He rushes back to Bletchley. 

At Bletchley Turing theorizes that the reason that his machine is taking so long is because it is trying to decode all the messages from all the sources at the same time which is why it can never finish in time before the Enigma key resets. He believes that if they concentrate on one source and using a repetitive word from that source his machine can begin to decode the rest faster through the repetition present in those stream of messages. It works. In minutes his machine decodes the days messages from that source. In the next few hours they begin to decode all sorts of messages from Nazi headquarters to their military and navy. By morning they've mapped out coordinates of Nazi ships as well as U-Boats and they spot a pattern of attack just off the British coast approaching a food and supply convoy heading to Britain. Their first thought is to inform Denniston but just as the thought enters everyone's mind Turing changes his. Everyone protests against Turing and punches are thrown but slowly everyone begins to see Turing's line of thought except for one. He has a brother on one of the convoy ships and begs Turing to change his mind this one time. Turing remains steadfast, so do the rest. 

That moment when you finally break the code. I wonder what that feels like? ©TheWeinsteinCompany

A bit later on in order to protect Joan from discovering from others that he is a homosexual he tells her. She tells him she's suspected it but to her it doesn't matter, that their marriage is based on their mutual respect for each other and how they get along, that she isn't looking for the normal relationship. But Turing instead of accepting her offer tells her he's been using her for her mind, that now that the project is almost at an end he doesn't need her anymore. 

Soon their work pays off and the Allies win the war. And at the end of it they are debriefed by Menzies. He tells them to burn everything, all their records, paperwork and even the machine. Nothing must remain. And once that is done all of them are to return to their own lives and never to speak of their work at Bletchley and never to meet each other again. 

Now it's back in 1951 and Turing is done telling his life story to the Investigator. The investigator is struck with disbelief. Turing on the other hand is found guilty of participating in lewd behavior with a man. Turing is given a choice between prison time and a chemical castration. He chooses the latter. Now home and going through depression and the after-affects of the chemical castration he is visited by Joan. She offers to help but he refuses, when she insists he breaks down and reveals to her that he's been incredibly lonely.

The film ends there. In the epilogue that follows we learn that Turing dies not much later due to an apparent suicide.

Also when a movie has lots of secret stuff at the end of it it all inevitably ends up in smoke one way or another, right? ©TheWeinsteinCompany

An Incredible Story Condensed, Can It Be Good?

In one word? Yes. This was a very good movie. Cumberbatch delivered an incredible performance as did everyone else but Cumberbatch is the driving force. I may be parroting most of the reviews out there already but I happily share them all. What's even more amazing is that this movie was directed by a man who previously only directed one other movie and even that was in Norwegian. This is his first English language film. Take that into account and the fact that this movie is good enough to earn praise and accolades from critics to being put on AFI's top ten movies of 2014 really speaks to how well this movie was made. 

Yes I know that there are critics and historians out there that lambaste this movies historical inaccuracies but on this I agree with what the screenwriter Graham Moore said during an interview with The Huffington Post; "When you use the language of 'fact checking' to talk about a film, I think you're sort of fundamentally misunderstanding how art works. You don't fact check Monet's 'Water Lilies'. That's not what water lilies look like, that's what the sensation of experiencing water lilies feel like. That's the goal of the piece." As well as what the director Morten Tyldum said in the same interview;  "A lot of historical films sometimes feel like people reading a Wikipedia page to you onscreen, like just reciting 'and then he did that, and then he did that, and then he did this other thing' – it's like a 'Greatest Hits' compilation. We wanted the movie to be emotional and passionate. Our goal was to give you 'What does Alan Turing feel like?' What does his story feel like? What'd it feel like to be Alan Turing? Can we create the experience of sort of 'Alan Turing-ness' for an audience based on his life?"

And I think they succeeded in doing that. You're really drawn in to the story. You may not have gotten the whole story or gotten it in the right order with the right details but this medium is not the place for that. For me when it comes to biopics like this what it should do is get you interested in the story enough for you to begin to appreciate the person and his works. And if that interest and appreciation gets you to read up more on them and their work then the movie has done it's job. If you're looking for historically accurate storytelling don't look for it in the cinemas, go watch a National Geographic or Discovery Channel documentary. A movie makers tasks is to tell a story as best as he can, to keep you entertained and at the same time hopefully thinking as well. 

This movie was one of the best I've seen that came out in 2014 even if I only managed to watch it in 2015. I happily give this movie a solid 4 out of 5.



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