Okay, I was literally shaking for an entire minute and a half after it ended. It was too many things at once - a spy caper, a race-against-the-clock film, a celebration of eccentricity, and an indictment of Britain's shoddy treatment of one of her heroes. The world has always been uncomfortable with discoveries and discoverers. Prodigies and excellence have always been frowned upon, dissuaded and even punished. Morten Tyldum's 'The Imitation Game' tells us the story of one such genius, Alan Turing (our very own Benedict Cumberbatch), who sweated it out to crack the German code, called Enigma, which the Axis powers used to cripple Allied moves during World War II.
The film draws us to a desperate time in British history when German bombers were pounding their capital. London then engages six math and chess wizards to break Enigma, which sends naval instructions every day to the Nazis. The Enigma's code -- with a fresh one made every midnight -- is almost impossible to decipher.
and this is when Turing steps in.
He is absolutely contemptuous of the rest of his team, and the others hate him as well. Turing's excellence is matched by his arrogance that puts him constantly at loggerheads even with his bosses (a wonderfully starchy Charles Dance, once again, our very own Papa Lannister) as a seen-it-all Royal Navy commander and Mark Strong as a cagey MI6 agent). But Turing is a Sherlock Holmes who sees things which others can not. Indeed, Benedict Cumberbatch is our favorite sociopath.
There is one delightful scene where Turing is fired, but he manages to overstep his seniors by writing a letter directly to Winston Churchill, who at once makes him the head of the team.
Finally, Turing found a way to checkmate Enigma, thus shortening the war by a good two years and saving thousands of lives. However, in the process, he attracted attention to his own homosexuality. He was arrested when he was caught with a male drifter, and two years later, Turing killed himself. He was merely 41. Of course, it was Victorian England where Turing had to constantly apologize for being gay.
Yes, some aspects of Tyldum's work may seem bordering on coincidence. It is not difficult to predict that Joan Clarke (Keira Knightly), the only woman in Turing's group, will be smarter than all the men. And it is also given that she would be attracted to Turing. They even get engaged, and when he confesses about his sexual preference, she quips a fluid, "So what?"
However, Tyldum keeps the narrative flowing with delightful ease, and in less than two hours, he packs his work with information and a gripping sense of the war - some of it through newsreel snippets. In the end, when Turing builds a room-sized machine (which has now become an almost palm-sized modern computer), he names it Christopher -- after the boy at school on whom Turing had a crush.
But Cumberbatch owned the movie! (impeccably perfect in every way!) He is a marvel to watch. The contrasts in him - comical when he is confronted with ordinary tasks like ordering food, and obsessive when it comes to work - are portrayed with powerful sensitivity. His inability to face the real world, the world outside his workplace, is almost heartrending. Knightley was alright, a predictable match for Cumberbatch, demolishing the era's demeaning view of a woman's ability.
A touching biopic on Alan Turing, the father of mathematicians and computers and cryptographers everywhere, the movie bases heavily on the intricate World War II situation. Though I understand it's beyond me to judge a movie of this level, but as I sit here, typing, I realize none of this would have happened if Turing hadn't existed.
Dear Alan Turing, I'm so sorry. I'm so very very sorry. You were a man misplaced in time. The man who saved 41 million lives but the society didn't save his.
Sometimes it's the very people who no one imagines anything of, do things no one can imagine.