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The Imitation Game - war puzzles and spy games

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The Imitation Game is one of the nominated titles in the Best Picture category this year, at the Oscars. That's one reason why I wanted to watch it. The second is Benedict Cumberbatch as I've lived so far without seeing him in a movie but my Facebook is flooded from time to time by fan pages and love declarations for him. And i just couldn't get it. Especially since he isn't some sort of a hot shot who makes teenagers sigh. Or is he? Maybe the "hot man" typology changed while I wasn't looking... Anyway I read about him and discovered his talented voice which he borrowed to Smaug in The Hobbit among others. Well, with filters, but the accent and pace still belongs to him. So for that at least, I was curious to actually see him talk in a movie.

So, back to our current area of interest! The Imitation Game tells the story of British pioneering computer scientist, mathemathician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, mathematical biologist and marathon and ultra distance runner - Alan Turing. Yes, some people can be all that during a life time - a short life time too, as Turing committed suicide with cyanide at the age of 41, in 1954. He is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.

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The particular segment of his work that turned him into a internationally praised figure and makes the subject of the Academy Award nominated The Imitation Game happened during the Second World War, when Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley park, Britain's code-breaking centre. He led the section in Hut 8, which was responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. He had a pivotal role in decrypting coded messages which eventually enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in crucial engagements. Overall, his work is said to have shortened the war with more than 2 years, saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Recently real notes handwritten by Turing and his code-breakers in pencil were found stuffed into the walls of the hut where they worked nearly 70 years ago. They now go on display at the museum where Turing and his colleagues' contributions are praised. What the pretty glamorous movie doesn't show is the extremely chilly conditions that the gang of smart lads were exposed to. The hut was not isolated or warmed and the security was a lot tougher than it is shown in the movie, in which Turing sometimes feels a bit spoiled as if he was really part of a game and not real spying during the war situation. But a movie needs its comfort zone to make it to a wide audience. A lonely, gay (and persecuted for it) genius who was also shivering and living in misery could have been too brutal for spectators who still need stories delivered in a fairy tale setup just like it needs bits of the bombing and battlefield details scattered around.

Directed by Norwegian director Morten Tyldum from a screenplay by Graham Moore based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, The Imitation Game stars Cumberbatch as Turing, Keira Knightley as the pioneering woman codebreaker and Turing's pseudo-fiance and close confident and Matthew Goode as his main colleague/fellow. Cumberbatch might be the best actor or maybe even the only actor who could portray Turing so accurately. His close to freaky face, with his distant, chilly blue eyes, his posture and silhouette make him the perfect nowadays figure to interpret Alan Turing.

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On top of his tricky, introvert personality, which made him a loner, Turing was also a homosexual, which back in the days was heavily judged. When the police found out he paid boys to have intercourse with him he had to choose between chemical castration (taking estrogen pills) or 2 years in prison. He chose the first option but soon committed suicide.

Cumberbatch is currently backing a gay-rights petition, leading the charge to request an official pardon for almost 50,000 men who were persecuted under British antigay laws, just like Turing. However Prince William and Kate Middleton declined to lend their support to the cause, declaring that the matter is meant to be addressed to the government and not the royal family. However, over 100,000 people already signed the petition so far, including Stephen Fry who just married his partner last month.

All in all, you'll find it pretty easy to indulge in this romanticized piece of history and watch it just like a school kid reads a page in his history book with a little extra - nice period context and Keira Knightley exposing her British charm once again. It's also an interesting take on what actually happened during the war and whose secrets were the biggest, what secrets led to casualties and what white lies took the Allies to victory - how it was to not trust anybody and deliberately work with spies so you could win the war. It's a beautiful story to tell - the kind that makes the audience want to know more - but a little disappointing as a serious contestant in the Oscars race.

Tags:   Oscars, review, Academy Awards, trailer, film review, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alan Turing, The Imitation Game, Morten Tyldum, Graham Moore, Best Picture, Oscar nominees

Related:   The Imitation Game


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