Published On: Mon, Feb 9th, 2015

The Imitation Game:Cracking the code to box office success


By: Megan Shea

The Imitation Game, a biopic detailing Alan Turing’s success as a cryptographer and his troubled and controversial personal life, has received critical acclaim following its December release. Whether you’re a history buff, an avid movie-goer, or simply someone who enjoys a good inspirational story, The Imitation Game is a film worth seeing before Oscar season this upcoming February.

Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the role of the socially inept, but undeniably intelligent English mathematician, Alan Turing. Turing is hired along with a handful of the nation’s most elite cryptographers to attempt to break the Nazi code, referred to as Enigma, during World War II.  Now revered as a pioneer in artificial intelligence and the father of the digital computer, Turing’s contribution to the war was hailed by Winston Churchill as the most crucial contribution of the war. However, this notoriety came too late; Turing’s efforts and success remained a government-held secret decades after his eventual suicide.

The Imitation Game follows Turing’s seemingly impossible mission to break one of the most difficult wartime codes ever created, which had 159 million million (that’s 18 zeros) possible combinations and allowed for only 24 hours to try each one before the code was changed for the following day. This story adheres to a race against time scenario- with some added pitfalls. Cumberbatch portrays a character deeply troubled by social inadequacies, discontentment with his sexuality in an unforgiving time, and a job with a very vague payoff. Turing’s fellow and only female, cryptologist Joan Clarke (Kierra Knightly) adds an element of confusion to Turing’s tormented life. Her character serves as a seemingly promising love interest, conflicting with Turing’s initial refusal to acknowledge his sexuality. Turing’s character is a complex one and Cumberbatch’s masterful performance overlooks very little.

The picture’s flashback structure conveys the film’s message in a compelling way, leaving its more poorly executed counterpart, Enigma (2001), (also detailing Turing’s life) a victim of its newer competition. While likely to appeal more to general audiences than critics, this brilliant story of unparalleled intelligence and accompanying war-time tragedy is promising and in the running for Oscar accolades.

This film depicts a man who saved nearly as many lives as he had combinations to decrypt.  While it by no means had a happy ending, it was the painfully honest approach that made it what it was. Sparing us the very possible Hollywood glamorization of a success story, director Morten Tyldum delivers a story that truly does the man behind it justice.

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