3 Stars – Thoughtful
In The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch stars as English mathematician and logician Alan Turing who helped crack the German Enigma code during World War II. The Enigma Code machine was a sophisticated device that scrambled messages so completely that it would have taken decoders years to unravel each message. To break the code, Turing and his team developed what would be an early version of a modern computer which shortened the war by at least two years.
Alan Turing was a brilliant loner. His lack of social skills was as far to the extreme on one side of his personality as his mathematical genius was on the other side. Getting others to work with him required handling him with kid gloves, and the British government wasn’t too happy to have to have him on their team. The one person with whom he gained trust and a small amount of affection was another bright math genius, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). Her social skills and attractive demeanor helped smooth over Turing’s “bull in a china cabinet” personality that more often than not got him in trouble, punched in the nose, or fired.
The British leadership kept this project so secret that many in their own government or military didn’t even know about it, even after they had broken the code. In fact, most of what we do know didn’t fully come to light until 50 years after the war. Turing’s team only released enough information to the British Navy to give them an advantage over the Germans, but not enough that the Germans would get suspicious that they had broken the code. The end result was obviously positive for the British, but it also meant that some innocent allies died that could have been saved in order to provide for the overall winning of the war.
Turing’s life was not experienced as a hero. He had almost no friends and his success could not be acknowledged. He lived life secretly as a homosexual, but in order to avoid being arrested, he confessed his anxiety and dilemma to his friend Joan, and they contemplated marriage as a way to protect him. After the war, he was arrested for his sexuality and while in prison he committed suicide. His profoundly positive impact on the ending World War II was only acknowledged decades after his death.
The machine that Turing invented to break the Enigma code became the precursor to the first early “computers” that were developed in the 10 years after the war. Unfortunately, due to his personal circumstances, Turing never got to share in these technological breakthroughs, nor did he profit from what he had created.
So often people with brilliant ideas are individuals who suffer in their own personal lives. The film makes the point that the repressive attitude of the British government towards homosexuals was the cause of his fall from grace after the war. We are given no information about his family or how he was loved and nurtured as a child, but it is clear that his lack of social skills isolated him from others that could have prepared him better for living life in his time and place.
Society often treats people like Alan Turing as an oddity, and even well-intentioned people who profess the need for tolerance, rarely go out of their way to provide love and support to those who seem strange and different. We talk a good line about loving others, but it is easy to dismiss those who seem on the surface to be unlovable. The tragedy is that underneath all of these external behaviors is a person of great worth. The Imitation Game is a good reminder that we are called to love and support those around us without expectation of love in return.
- The overdeveloped abilities of many geniuses often mean an underdeveloped area of their lives. How do you interact with people who have special abilities and needs? Do you go out of your way to include them in your life? Why or why not?
- The freedom that was being purchased by the sacrifice of the allied soldiers is often not extended toward all. Why do you think it is so common that even in the “free” nations everyone is not treated with respect, honor and love?
- If you had been the leader in charge when the code was broken would you have kept it a secret to win the war even if that secrecy cost the lives of your soldiers and the soldiers of your allies?