The Imitation Game tells one of history’s greatest espionage stories: the race to break the German Enigma code during WWII. The Enigma cipher machine had 159 million permutations, and the Germans changed the code at midnight every day. It would take a lot of people to get the job done, and the British only had eight.
Leading the code-breaking team at Bletchley Park is Alan Turing (1912-1954), a mathematician, cryptographer and the father of computer science. Turing realized that because the team couldn’t break the code mathematically, it would take another machine to beat the Enigma machine. So it’s ‘heigh ho off to work’ they go. Complicating things, there are spies in their midst and government officials who don’t believe in Turing’s design for a machine – today known as a computer – that can be used by the analysts to decrypt German messages.
Benedict Cumberbatch (seen on BBC as Sherlock Holmes) is as brilliant playing Turing as Turing was at mathematics, machines and puzzles. Of the eight people working with him, only one is a woman, Joan Clarke, played by Keira Knightley. She’s easily the smartest of the group, save Turing, and becomes a love interest for short time.
Meanwhile, the war rages on, and the deaths pile up. The code machine has its up and downs. And its round and rounds. It makes clicks and pops, and although it’s the first digital computer, it still runs faster without an operating system than Windows 95 ever did.
It’s obvious early in the film that Turing is gay, but this doesn’t overwhelm the plot until very late in the story. After the war, Turing was convicted of “indecency” (then still a crime). His career and life were ruined, and he died – possibly by suicide – in 1954. During his lifetime, Turing never received credit for what he and his team achieved.
The Imitation Game does a great job of blending the human story with the history story of cracking Enigma – which enabled Allied victories in many battles, shortened the war, and saved millions of lives. And the story of how it all came about makes for one of the best films of the year, one that in some ways very much like the recently-released The Theory of Everything.
I’ll leave it to you to decode the meaning of the title, which refers to an event in the film. I was tempted to write this review in an indecipherable code (which my editor says happens sometimes anyway) but that might have scared you away. If I’ve kept you here long enough to get this far, you should be persuaded to check out The Imitation Game. It’s for real.
Rated 3.9 out of 4.0 dash dash dot dot dot dash