‘Imitation Game’ decrypts Alan Turing’s enigmatic career

Most people and history textbooks attribute the Allies’ victory in WWII to their superior firepower. However, few people recognize that their victory actually rested on one man cracking one code.

“The Imitation Game,” a film by Norwegian director Morten Tyldum, based on a biography by Andrew Hodges, tells the amazing story of how Cambridge mathematician Alan Turing cracked the “uncrackable” German code, Enigma, and invented the first computer in the process.

In the film, Alan Turing’s quirky nature is masterfully portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch as he works tirelessly to create his code-decrypting machine, which he names Christopher after his childhood friend and first love.

However, just as the Nazis declare war on the British, the people with whom Turing works come to despise his smart-alecky personality and try to keep him from working on his machine, which they deem harmful to their progress. Thus, they are horrified when Winston Churchill puts Turing in charge of the group, allowing Turing’s machine to become a reality.

Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), a female cryptographer and Turing’s love interest, then steps into the scene, teaching Turing that his chances for success will be greatly increased if he treats his teammates kindly. This is a revelation that leads the other cryptographers to stand up for Turing and his machine as their commanding officer, Denniston, threatens to put a stop to the operation.

As scenes of air raids on London increase the sense of urgency, Turing suddenly has a revelation that increases his machine’s efficiency and allows them to crack any code from Enigma in a matter of minutes. This revelation allowed MI6 to instruct the Allies where the Axis powers were going to strike, while still being careful not to give away the secret of their code-breaking capacities, which was not released for over 50 years.

Overall, “The Imitation Game” gives a thrilling and historically accurate telling of Turing’s secretive, yet integral, part in the war effort.
-Ari Freedman