The story of Alan Turing was, until the mid 70’s, a completely untold secret as a matter of national security for Great Britain. And I think it’s fair to say (sad, but fair), that until the making of “The Imitation Game” the story remained unknown to most modern audiences. But what a story it is.
Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), not only invented a machine that cracked the Nazi’s Enigma code, a feat that many believe led to a much sooner end of World War II; that same machine (named Christopher) was the first use of technology that led to the modern computer. To say that he was brilliant (in all things but social interactions), seems like a gross understatement.
Of course, Turing’s accomplishments in code breaking, though incredible, were not achieved alone. His team, whose learning curve on how to work with Turing is equal parts frustrating and delightful to observe, is made up of several other brilliant minds, including—Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), John Cairncross (Allen Leech), Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard). Then there’s the unofficial group member, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), a brilliant code breaker, who because of her gender has to be snuck intelligence and in and out of group meetings.
Alan’s very literal and technical view of the world is quite often a barrier for him, but in many ways it puts him way ahead of his time. Joan is one of those ways. Where many, including her parents, see a woman in a field that she doesn’t belong, Alan only sees a person who is the best at the skill he’s looking for—code breaking. The friendship of Joan and Alan is the emotional pillar of this story, and Knightley and Cumberbatch simply shine in these roles.
There’s something incredibly timely about a story that is by all accounts, a period piece. The circumstances of Turing’s death, his prosecution under the indecency laws of the time, and the inhumane treatment he underwent to “cure” his homosexuality so that he could continue his work. The scenes are heartbreaking and, sadly, topical still today. Then, of course, there’s Joan, whose presence in this male-dominated mathematical circle is rare and strange (sound familiar?) to everyone but Alan.
The story may be history, but the issues are still very relevant to a modern audience.