A biopic of Alan Turing, the British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, early computer scientist, ultra distance runner, and much more. It focuses on his schooldays, his time during the Second World War at Bletchley Park and the last few years of his life.
If you have ever chuckled at the joke “Military Intelligence is a contradiction in terms.” then this film will partially wipe the smile from your face. While the Second World War is part of the reason Turing came to prominence this is not a war movie. This is an in depth character study of a man whose impact not just on code breaking during the war but subsequently on the foundation of modern computer science and Artificial intelligence theory was written out of history for decades because of an outdated law.
Benedict Cumberbatch gives a touching performance as Turning the brilliant and fragile genius. The character of Turing is not a million miles away from Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. We are given hints to Turing’s almost autistic habits and clearly see how his frank genius repelled and intimidated the people around him. Cumberbatch executes this mostly with understatement and his rare bursts of emotion which are mostly tied to his research. Kiera Knightley seems to be best playing Kiera Knightly in many of her roles and here she does not disappoint. Charles Dance is impressively commanding as the cold military face of the operations in Bletchley Park while Mark Strong subtly impresses as the shadowy M16 intermediary.
Apart from some artistic license, which gives Turing only marginally more credit for his part in the Bletchley Park success, the screenplay/editing is a true masterpiece. We are given three story arcs from Turing’s life, his schooldays, Bletchley Park and the last years of his life all in a skillful non linear fashion. Naturally the War years would have attracted most people to this story but the filmmakers have made the other two sections as compelling. Good screenwriters (and good story tellers) drip feed information about character and plot to us but here they have gone a step further. Besides many passages of dialogue cleverly written with a code-like subtext it is the presentation of the different phases throughout Turing’s life is in a suitably puzzle-like manner which makes the build-up fascinating and compelling while the climax of the film is deceptively emotional.
While the action mostly takes place inside different buildings the director, Morten Tyldum, makes excellent use of the interior spaces which adds to the atmosphere of the film. It is worth a trip to the cinema. Even more so for admirers of Turing.
Alan Turing had an even more fascinating (and tragically short) existence than the film captures but they have made a gripping story about a mathematician and the delivered interwoven slices are a fitting testament to the incredible man’s life.
The Imitation Game is in Irish Cinemas now.