Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Morton Tyldum directed THE IMITATION GAME  - a biopic of The “Father of Computer Science” -  Alan Turing (1912-1954) in such a way that we are ricocheting back and forth in time beginning in 1926 and ending in 1954 focusing on “…British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing who was a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany's naval Enigma code which helped the Allies win the Second World War, only to later be criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality…with a screenplay by Graham Moore based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges…” (Wikipedia)

We at first do not see Mr. Turing (a wrenching performance by Benedict Cumberbatch)- instead we hear his imperious voice - a tone meting out strictures - like a professor high atop a mountain talking to a kindergarten child, and then we see an awkward, arrogant, and if the film is to be believed young man who seems to fit the Asperger’s Syndrome profile - but that late 20th C. diagnosis is debatable.  Benedict Cumberbatch with a quivering upper lip, wet  steamy eyes, exhibits a fierce confidence in his own ability. He is a loner - a  type of loner who does not give a damn about the opinion of others because his opinion of himself is so indomitable…and true.

THE IMITATION GAME revolves around the depiction of a person who is “different”- who was both an heroic and a tragic figure. It disturbingly reveals the disdain of those in authority to someone who once was indispensable to the British government’s war effort and the ease with which they can be “discarded” once they are no longer of use…even if you worked for the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park England -  having built a machine that was able to decipher daily Nazi messages which yielded German military intelligence - shortening the war by 2-4 years thereby saving millions of lives. After the war all  the work decoding Enigma was wiped out of the official records as if his intense achievements had never happened. History evaporated.

Turing talked about “the imitation game”- how does one know if communication is from a human or a machine so he devised the TURING TEST: “…The Turing test is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. In the original illustrative example, a human judge engages in natural language conversations with a human and a machine designed to generate performance indistinguishable from that of a human being. The conversation is limited to a text-only channel such as a computer keyboard and screen so that the result is not dependent on the machine's ability to render words into audio…All participants are separated from one another. If the judge cannot reliably tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test. The test does not check the ability to give the correct answer to questions; it checks how closely each answer resembles the answer a human would give…” (Wikipedia)

The movie’s drama revolves around an inventive person and how he negotiates the world outside of the mind. Not only is Alan Turing a brilliant mathematician but he is also gay in a country (Britain) that prosecuted and jailed “homosexuals” for “gross indecency” (The Sexual Offenses Act of Parliament  did not decriminalize sexual activity between two men until 1967,) so keeping secrets became the core of his existence, from an early age when he was the smartest schoolboy in his class and formed a deep friendship with another young man who became his only friend rescuing him from the bullying behavior of fellow classmates; that special relationship becomes a fulcrum for THE IMITATION GAME. 

Benedict Cumberbatch  performance as Alan Turing is heartbreaking giving us insight into a  man with rare ingenuity and intelligence, but unpolished and artless in his negotiations with bureaucratic officials who condescendingly impose deadlines and place other restrictions on his inquiry. Keira Knightley plays Joan Clarke, the only female member of the elite circle of mathematicians; a humanizing bridge and “social” teacher as well as an intellectual ally of Turing and briefly his fiancĂ©, becoming a critical member of the team and his emotional life. She is broadminded and excited by Turing’s fulgent mind - their collaboration is essential to the success of decoding Enigma.

Integral contributions to society can be accomplished without reward. Often those responsible for timeless scientific advances created during periods of war/crisis that impact us all to this very day are forgotten -  some intentionally so. THE IMITATION GAME tries to resurrect an extraordinary person,  Alan Turing - a being who is still considered by many in the tech world to be the founder of “Artificial Intelligence” and his machine the forerunner of the world’s first personal computer. This film is a tale of a life well-lived but shockingly crippled by the ignorance and narrow-mindedness of bigotry.

No comments:

Post a Comment