Sunday, September 14, 2014

TIFF 14 Film Review - The Imitation Game

We first meet Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) sitting in a police station being interviewed after a break in to his Manchester home in 1951. The investigating officer knows that there is more to his story that he is letting on but can't quite place the details.  Next we jump back to Bletchley Park in 1939 for Turing's interview with Admiralty director Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) where he basically explains that they need him more than he needs them. He is arrogant and insulting but says the magic word Enigma and is in as a code breaker.

THE IMITATION GAME is a fast paced tale of a literal daily race against the clock to break an unbreakable code to help the Allies win the war against the Axis powers. The dilemma,Enigma had millions of Mathematical variations that the German were sure could not be broken by the human mind.  They were correct and Turing knew it as well realizing that it would take a machine to defeat another machine.

Screenplay writer Graham Moore crafts a story based on Andrew Hodges book featuring twists and turns that ratchet up the action. The story flashes back and flips forward between world war two, the early fifties and Turing's time in boarding school in the late 20's where he meets his first and only friend Christopher who introduces him to code-breaking.  The most interesting character in the piece is Stewart Mendzies (Mark Strong) of the newly formed MI-6 who thrills at keeping secrets, plotting misdirection and using alternate channels to get information out that in his eyes benefits the War effort and the Nation.

Director Morten Tyldum does a superior job in focusing on the relationship amongst the code breaking group especially the rivalry between Turing and lead expert Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) also putting emphasis on turnings thoughts that were well ahead of their time. Recruiting using a puzzle in a daily newspaper, having a woman Joan Clarke (Keira Knightly) as part of the team working side by side with men which was unheard of at the time and above all building Christopher the basis for Turing machines that were later know as computers.

The films does not stray away from the dark side of the story. Turing's detainment, questioning and conviction for homosexual plus forced hormone therapy are documented in the film.

However, the main question that the story raises is the huge responsibility of determining when the information gained from breaking the codes can be used. If too may attacks are averted The Germans will know something has changed and rework their coding system. But to keep the Germans off balance the group knows that they will lead a number of troops to their deaths.

Benedict Cumberbatch is memorable in the role of Alan Turing. He hypes up Turing's social awkwardness, lack of nuance and intellectual arrogance at every opportunity. Keira Knightly is very storm as Joan Clarke an equal member of the team she helps Turing to smooth out some of his rough edges to get the rest of the teaming willing to work with him as opposed to want to quit because of him. Matthew Goode, Mark Strong and Charles Dance are all notable in supporting roles.

The Imitiation Game is a historically significant piece of work by a group that did not set foot on the battlefield but greatly helped to win the war. Their silent contribution to the war effort saved 10's of millions of lives and arguable reduced the length of the war by two years. The difficult choices by the team kept the German's unaware but the unfortunate end for Turing is regrettable. This is a film that I can definitely recommend.

*** 1/2  Out of 4.

The Imitation Game | Morten Tyldum | U.K / U.S.A | 2014 | 113 Minutes.

Tags: Enigma, Word War Two, Ciphers, Bletchley Park, MI6, Royal Navy, Homosexuality Laws, WREN.

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