“Are you paying attention? Good”.
Benedict Cumberbatch turns in arguably his most brilliant performance ever as Alan Turing, a mathematician who develops a decoding machine that helps the Allies win the 2nd World War, but commits suicide after he is convicted for being homosexual. The movie begins with a burglary in Turing’s home in 1951 post-war Manchester, then switches to 1939 pre-war London, where he goes to apply for a job as a cryptographer in the British Navy. These switches are a recurring theme throughout the movie, from Turing being bullied as a high school student to his frustration with his superiors and teammates in the Navy.
As a crytographer in the Navy, he is part of a team of other intelligent individuals headed by Commander Denniston (played by the aristocratic-looking Charles Dance), including Hugh Alexander (played by the awesome Matthew Goode), John Cairncross (played by the ever-boring, too-buff-to-be-a-mathematician Allen Leech) and a couple of other not-too-popular British folk. A funny point in the movie is when Turing insists on working alone as he feels the “other intelligent individuals” would slow him down, insinuating that they were not smart enough to keep up with him. Alexander takes this in stride, but for some odd reason, Cairncross looks insulted (he should just be happy he’s even in the team, to be honest). Cairncross further proves my point by declaring with supreme confidence that there is no such thing as the MI6, just a few seconds after Denniston has introduced the Director of the MI6 (Mark Strong) to the team. But we’ve insulted Leech enough.
The team then embarks on the almost impossible task of decoding the German Enigma machine, touted by the Nazis as being totally unbreakable (I’m not too sure but I think someone said something similar about the Titanic, but let’s continue). It is estimated that it would take approximately 20 million years to crack the machine using a trial and error method, so Turing decides to build his own machine, which would be able to decode anything (basically building the opposite of what the Nazis built). He receives criticism from his teammates and Commander, but rides on doggedly (Aye aye, young lad!). This goes on for days and days and the movie is almost becoming dreary and then….
BOOM! Keira Knightley shows up as the beautiful and incredibly smart Joan Clarke, who joins the team of cryptographers and is probably the only woman in the entire United Kingdom at the time with such a job. The movie immediately lightens up, as does Turing’s cheeks. Mind you, in between all these are numerous flashbacks showing Turing being bullied and basically having the worst childhood in the whole Milky Way as at 1939 (Chris Rock in Everybody Hates Chris has since surpassed this record).
Clarke supports Turing and eventually convinces the rest of the team that Turing’s machine is the best chance they have in breaking Enigma. The team works together for months, then years, and then the machine is finally complete. But of course, as these things go, the machine does not work as required the first time, or the second time, or the third time, until Turing has an eureka moment during a discussion with a hot lass who has eyes for Alexander. He tries out his idea and voila! Britain wins the war. Turing becomes a national hero and the team disperses and returns to whatever it is brilliant mathematicians (excluding Cairncross, of course) do after helping win wars. About a decade later, however, Turing is arrested on suspicions of being a homosexual, tried, convicted and sentenced to 2 years in jail (I guess we should be grateful he wasn’t hung, drawn and quartered), with the option of accepting “homosexual treatment” in place of jail-time. He chooses treatment rather than jail so he can continue his work, but the drugs reduce his mental capabilities and leave him physically drained. He commits suicide after a year.
All in all, The Imitation Game is a brilliant movie, with brilliant actors (Benedict Cumberbatch was mind-blowing, as in my mind blew), and a good story-line, and is definitely one of the contenders for 2014 movie of the year. If you haven’t seen it, you have to.
Oh and on a parting note, one of the members of the cryptography team was a spy for the Soviet Union. 5 points if you can guess who it was.
P.S. I have absolutely nothing against John Cairncross, Allen Leech just has a face that screams, “Yab me!”. Cheers.