Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Imitation Game - Review

The Imitation Game – Review

Webster’s dictionary defines the word “conventional” as “being concerned with what is generally held as something basically acceptable at the expense of individuality and sincerity – a piece of work of art or literature that follows safe traditional forms and genres”. While the film “The Imitation Game” does have a general feel of conventionality to its story telling as Directed by Morten Tyldum, it is still nonetheless a remarkably respectful, honest and well executed film of the true story of a man named Alan Turing. A shy and awkwardly odd British Mathematics Professor who at the ripe young age of 26 in 1939 was thrust into the chronicles of history as one of the centrally key and yet largely unknown historic heroic figures of World War 2, who by all current historian assessment consider his top secret contributions then as hastening the Allies World War 2 victory by two full years including probably saving an estimated 14 million lives as well.

The films also simultaneously delves into rather effectively how this benignly inconspicuous yet incredibly intelligent man who by sheer random circumstances was charged with saving the world by cracking the German’s infamous secret messaging “Enigma Machine” was also living a life in utter personal torment with raw palatable anxiety of living a duplicitous existence as a closeted homosexual. A life defined legally then as a “crime of gross indecency” that if revealed at any point would have surely led him to professional ruin for life and more critically would have had him probably prosecuted and punish for his “crimes” with a lengthy prison sentence. In retrospect and more significantly, with only Turing at that time having the single unorthodox idea of “decoding an insolvable machine with another machine” and with all of civilized humanity standing literally on the precipice of falling under the ruthless oppressive hand of Fascism, had in fact Turing’s personal life been revealed it would have certainly created an intellectual void of never solving the secrets to the German electro-mechanical rotor cipher machine.  A void which would have led to a whole series of military events having entirely different outcomes where the inevitable conclusion would have been with Germany not just winning the war but the world as well.

With the movie largely about math, machines, ideas and probabilities from beginning to its end “The Imitation Game” is likeably, uncomplicated and effortless to watch as it delivers both its story with its main character Turing and its star Actor Benedict Cumberbatch with general ease. The film without any real dynamic action manages to be very stirring about the historical events of that time and the lives that were intertwined. It also manages to move us through to what were the first thoughts on computers; the concepts, science and humanity as they all work together to assist modern thinking for modern problem solving. But the real engrossing strength of the film are the relationships, especially as they shine through the Oscar worthy nomination prism of Benedict Cumberbatch portrayal of Turing. He is undeniably strong and commanding as both the strong and fragile Turing; his standout performance here is starting to suggest that he is an actor who will be giving consistently great performances not based on the material but out of habit of simply being a talented actor. Also noteworthy is Keira Knightley as Touring’s friend, muse and confident Joan Clarke, she undoubtedly with get an Oscar nomination as well as should the film itself.

To my surprise “The Imitation Game” had a lot more to its story than simply watching people arguing or sitting around with pencil and paper scratching out an array of formulas with squiggly lines or a chalk board with long indiscernible equations on them. Instead I found the film is filled with intrigue, mystery and rather interesting circumstances that I think we should all be thankful that there were some really wise forward thinking people sitting in that room at the time who had the prudence to think long term as oppose to acting impulsively when the crescendo moment of success comes with Turing's implied statement “we now can listen to Himmler talk to Hitler”.

Ultimately the film at its core is about the world’s triumph against evil, but equally important it is a film about the joyous pendulum swing of human triumph and the equally damning pendulum swing in personal tragedy that occurred for then an unlikeable gay genius.

Until now, one of my most famous unsung heroes of World War 2 was Enrico Fermi an Italian physicist who was secretively brought into the United States at the urgent request by Albert Einstein to President Franklin Roosevelt after Fermi had repeatedly warned again and again to a disinterested world that the Germans were vigilantly working very hard on designing a nuclear device. Fermi was brought to New York in 1939 to work and complete his work on Chicago Pile 1 – the first known working nuclear reactor under the Manhattan Project.

Now I add one more to that list in the name of Alan Turing in the form of the film ‘The Imitation Game”. A film that honors his legacy with the reward of genuine praise, genuine respect and genuine human decency that unlike another less tolerant historical time did not afford him so similarly, especially in regards to his very own private personal life just because he was born different.

“The Imitation Game” is an excellent smart film about extraordinary trying events and an exemplary and decent man who may have singularly saved all of humanity.

4 Stars 

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