Finally a few more movies are screening in Version Originale (VO) in my French village. I’ve been waiting a while for another one to appear, so as soon as I saw there was a movie about the cracking of the Enigma Code, I was in. I didn’t read anything about the movie prior to popping along, although I did know that Benedict Cumberbatch was nominated for a Best Actor award in the Oscars. Mistake! I had imagined a somewhat gripping, upbeat tale of the race to break the Nazi code. Well instead for me it was a very sad tale of Alan Turing, a brilliant cryptanalyst and his otherworldly genius. However it was of course a drama so it did have code cracking intensity and a smidgen of mirth as well. A socially uncomfortable, arrogant man, he held firm in his abilities to create a machine that would break the code. Nobody around him except for Joan Clark played by Kiera Knightley had any faith in him or really understood what he was doing. Clark, a brilliant mathematician also had an awful time of it, unfortunately born in a time when women weren’t encouraged to have careers. A close bond was forged between her and Turing, the two outsiders.
Turing‘s creation was a supercomputer of his times and the ‘Turing machines’, now known as computers inspired much research after the war. Alan affectionately named it Christopher, after a young love at his boarding school. Unfortunately for Turing, he was gay at a time when it was illegal and was convicted in 1952. So after decrypting the Nazi code that helped to speed the closure of the Second World War, thereby saving lives, he was given two choices – prison or chemical castration. He opted for the hormone altering drugs with all of the ensuing side effects that unfortunately incapacitated him. Turing killed himself in 1954. A tragedy of the times but by no means unusual in that day and age. In the UK between the years of 1885 and 1967, there were approximately 49,000 homosexual men imprisoned for ‘gross indecency’ under British law. Cumberpatch has recently called for a royal pardon for all of the men convicted of homosexuality in the UK, including 15,000, thought to still be alive.
Furthermore, the heroics of Turing and his brainy bunch of a team was also classified information, so it wasn’t until many years later that the project was revealed to the public. Anyway it was all rather grim. It was definitely not the uplifting, rousing war story I was expecting. I drew parallels here with another great but slightly arduous film, A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly that also told a story of a tortured brilliant man – John Nash.
Benedict Cumberpatch undoubtedly gives a tour de force performance in this film. Other strong actors who made an impact were Keira Knightley, Charles Dance (always watchable, and oh so good as Tywin Lannister), Matthew Goode and Mark Strong.
The Imitation Game has a catchphrase, see below, which I think is repeated at least three times. Just like Game of Thrones oft delivered ‘Winter is Coming‘ or ‘You know nothing John Snow‘, is this to be a trend?
“Sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine”