The Imitation Game is a well crafted, beautifully shot and acted World War II film that tells the behind the scenes story of how we won the war: a story that remained secret for 50 years. It is the story of a group of English code breakers sequestered by the British Government and secret service to crack the Nazi's code Enigma through which the Nazis relayed all their battle plans. The Nazi messages could be intercepted by anyone, but no one could decipher them, until a brilliant band of England's top mathematicians, linguists and chess champions solved the puzzle. Leading this team was the great mathematician and inventor Alan Turing, whose story and relationships form the heart of this movie.
The film unfolds as a double detective story with Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan Turing at the center of both. If you were bored by the Masterpiece Theater stillness of A King's Speech, this film is never too slow or boring. The film opens with detectives in Alan Turing's home investigating a burglary as Turing picks through the broken bits of his experiments and tries to get the police out of his house as soon as possible. Though nothing seems to have been taken, and Turing is not interested in pursuing the matter, one detective believes he has stumbled upon a great mystery and has perhaps uncovered a spy. His research into Turing's war records (which are sealed due to the fact that he was working on an undercover operation to break the Nazi code) feeds the detective's desire to crack Turing.
The second detective story is the one that changed the course of WWII: Turing leading a group of men and one woman, played beautifully and heartbreakingly by Keira Knightley, to decode Enigma, the Nazi message machine that relayed their war strategy to the Nazi generals in the field. While the others on the team struggle to use their brains to solve the code, Turing proceeds to build his universal machine, the first computer, in order to process more information than the human brain could handle and within the time limits of a day in order to predict and stop Nazi attacks. While he is derided by the others, eventually he gets Churchill on his side and then all the others. His closest ally during the battle to break the code is the only female on the team, a real historic hero, mathematician Joan Clark, who was inducted as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1947.
This is a story of both great victory and defeat. The victory is for all humanity as Turing's team uses his machine to break the Nazi code, predict Nazi war plans, and shorten the war by as much as two years. The defeat is in how history treated Turing and all homosexual men in Britain, where homosexuality was a crime and Turing was subjected to chemical sterilization when the detectives investigating his robbery after the war, uncovered a homosexual rendezvous. Turing killed himself by eating a cyanide-laced apple a year after the forced chemical treatments began. Only this year, Turing was granted a posthumous royal pardon by The Queen of England for his "crime," but he has remained in the dustbin of history despite his great service to humanity in WWII and his ushering in of the computer age.
The film was received enthusiastically by an applauding audience at a pre-release screening at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science on November the 15. It opens in theaters on November 28. The following quotes are from a panel of the filmmakers and actors following The Academy screening.
Keira Knightley: "The story is quite relevant. The woman upon whom my character is based was fighting for a place at the table and equal pay. Same as today. This is a story about why having different kinds of people at the table is a good thing."
Benedict Cumberbatch: "I felt like I had to be perfect to honor Turing's memory."
Keira Knightley: "If it were up to Cumberbatch, we would still be filming, he's such a perfectionist."
Director Morten Tyldum: "Cumberbatch didn't ask for too many takes. "
Keira Knightley: "That's just because Morten wanted even more."
Director Morten Tyldum: "I used war footage without many humans in it because I wanted the action centered on Turing's machine and the team working with it."
Director Morten Tyldum: "We used Alan Turing's real school and the real machines."
Director Morten Tyldum: "I didn't want this film to be a dusty history lesson because Alan Turing deserves more."
Benedict Cumberbatch: "Prejudice against gays is not a history lesson, sadly."
Screenwriter Graham Moore: "I wrote this as a thriller. The fate of the world rests on a 26-year-old mathematician."
Keira Knightley: "It makes perfect sense to me that my character would choose partnership with Turing over a sexual love given the opportunities for women in the time."
Benedict Cumberbatch: "I read the script for Imitation Game during a day off from JJ Abram's Star Trek, and I was transported back from space."
Benedict Cumberbatch: "I read biographies to get details on Turing's habits, stammer, and movements."
Benedict Cumberbatch: "Alan Turing is a hero who has been denied his place in history because of his sexuality."
Keira Knightley: "I wanted to be in a film about Alan Turing even before I read the script."
Director Morten Tyldum: "Finding the young Benedict Cumberbatch was the hardest challenge, but we found the perfect young actor. He is perfect in a key scene that establishes Turing's emotional life."
Director Morton: "This is a story about how being different can make one special."