Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Imitation Game

In the historic biography film genre we sometimes get the subgenre of misunderstood genius. The Imitation Game fits that definition. I didn't see the recent film about Stephen Hawking but I remember A Beautiful Mind and the one about Alfred Kinsey and there are others of course. The Imitation Game which I saw yesterday is about more than Alan Turning, a mathematical genius, but about cracking the Enigma code of the Nazis and about inventing the computer. Coincidentaly it's also about England's institutions of public schools where so many boys turned to one another for affection and so many were later prosecuted for being gay (and many more had unhappy marriages). And the persecution probably lead to Turning's suicide.

This is a wonderfully acted movie, one feels often that scenes have been a bit over dramatized for the sake of action. The scene in which a coincidental secretary gives the clue that finally makes it possible to break the code with the huge computer is so obviously invented (even if it was just such a casual remark that  lead to the answer) one cannot believe it. Kira Knightly is so incredibly lovely she always steals scenes from the geeky, up-tight math geniuses and I continue to wonder if there was a woman in the group at all or if that was needed by the scriptwriters.

The basic story of breaking the code is the action part, the added on flash backs and flash forwards that are plot devices are awkwardly obvious. But the moral story is to be pondered long after the writing is dismissed as what they do to make movies. Once the code is cracked Turning realizes (with startling immediacy) that they must not use it to save a convoy in the Atlantic, they must use it statistically to determine how to keep it secret from the Germans that they've cracked the code. If they allow many German victories. We are told in an afterward note that they may have shortened the war by two years and saved 14 million lives. These are statistics and not facts. We also get a hint of the extent of the Russian spy network in England's intellectual classes and of the odd sort of paranoia that spying organizations maintain (everywhere it seems).  The government did not admit they had cracked the Enigma code until 1998. And Turning, dead in the 1940s was then knighted posthumously.  It's a movie  to ponder on many levels.

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