Friday, December 12, 2014


The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game official site The name Alan Turing should sound quite familiar to you, especially if you enjoy your computers, tablets, and smart-phones that you are using right now. He was a distinguished British mathematician who was a pioneer in computer science and artificial intelligence. His significant contribution in cracking Nazi's encrypted messages helped the British and its allies to win World War II. After the war, he was ordered to keep his accomplishment as a top secret. But when the secret about his sexuality was discovered, he was bigotedly prosecuted for being gay in 1952 when homosexual activity was a crime. Alan Turing's fascinating and extraordinary story is dramatically unfold in Norwegian director Morten Tyldum's engrossing new film "The Imitation Game" (UK/USA 2014 | 114 min.). During Toronto International Film Festival few months ago, The New York Times amusingly summarized this film as "The King's Speech" met "A Beautiful Mind" on "Brokeback Mountain." That actually isn't too far from the truth. Benedict Cumberbatch's terrific performance as Alan Turing likely will add more goodies in the gift-basket during the upcoming award season.

During World War II in 1939, British forces' fight against the German looks bleak. Although the British can intercept German forces' radio transmissions encrypted by a machine called Enigma, they cannot decode these messages. When Royal Naval Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance) recruits a team of experts to crack German's unbreakable code and to turn the war around, 27-year-old prodigy Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) joins the ambitious effort.

Although Alan is a genius in mathematics and in solving puzzles, he is remarkably awkward at social interactions. While keeping his homosexuality as a deep secret, he finds comfort by submerging himself in his code-breaking work inside the heavily guarded mansion in Bletchley Park. With the support from the Prime Minister, no less, he assembles a team of sharp minds including a brilliant Cambridge mathematics graduate Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) and a chess champion Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode).

Firmly believing in machines (later we call computers) to process logic like a human brain, Alan and his team build a complex electro-mechanical device bombe which he names it Christopher after his only childhood friend in a boarding school. With their passionate work, persist dedication, and pure luck, they finally crack German's encryption which changes every 24 hours. Their work eventually helps the British to win the bloody war.

The Imitation Game Official Site

Clearly, the director Morten Tyldum is gearing toward to entertain a broader audience when he tells Alan Turing's remarkable story in this film. The film is gripping from the beginning to the end and it's full of dramatic moments, even some of them are ostentatiously choreographed and less convincing. However, the superb performance by the cast and the incredible story keep us captivated.

It's unfortunate that the film doesn't have any illustration about Alan Turing's intelligence in mathematics. All we can see is that Alan works on a bombe like a handyman or an electrical engineer instead of a mathematician. The film shies away from explaining any mathematical algorithm or encryption theory which is at the center of the film. That omission raises suspicion about the filmmakers' diminishing of viewers' intelligence. For example, Instead of elaborating how Alan Turing's mathematical mind cracks the enigma, the film invents an aha-moment during a bar-talk that inspires a breakthrough. While it makes an exciting scene for the movie, it's quite ludicrous in science.

However, despite the lack of scientific element, the film undoubtedly makes Alan Turing an iconic name for generations to remember.

"The Imitation Game," a Weinstein Company release, opens on Friday, December 12, 2014 in San Francisco Bay Area.

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