Monday, November 9, 2015

The Imitation Game - Movie Review

Fine piece of history retold. What would we do if movies were not made to retell stories of the past which were either forgotten or hidden? 'The Imitation Game' is one such. ('Flash of Genius' was another.)

Mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, theoretical biologist and computer scientist  Alan Turning's life and his immense contribution to end the World War II and to computers and Artificial Intelligence were suppressed under the secrecy act. His early death probably was a result of his conviction of being a homosexual and its aftermath. Convicted, because homosexuality was against the law then.

Amid all this Alan Turing's gigantic contribution to shortening the World War II by some estimates as much as two to four years thereby probably saving millions of lives, lay hidden. Turing cracked the formidable German encryption machine 'Enigma' which controlled its growing network of strategic military points with his own machine 'Christopher' (the name of his friend at school who introduces Alan to many aspects of science and with whom he may have developed his romantic predilections - the friend dies in school of TB which messes Turning's psyche ). And once Christopher, the machine, seemingly dumb and temperamental, is unlocked by the one key that falls into place (thanks to love - or rather a romantic interlude) - the Enigma and its many sinister plans were laid bare.

Turing and his team selectively reveal strategic information to tilt the war gently in favor of the Allies, led by hard logic. Any suspicion by the Germans that the Enigma was cracked would have resulted in further extension of war. So the team plays it close, using statistical analysis to guide it and selectively release intelligence to tilt the balance of the war. The most strategic battles were won as a result of this intelligence.

In one of the most tender conversations I have seen on screen, a chemically castrated (alternate punishment for prison for his homosexual preferences) Turing, his hands and mind twitching from the side effects of chemicals, is told by his lady love and co-cryptographer Joan Clarke (one whom he lets go confessing of his sexual preferences which she does not mind ) of his great achievement and how he reduced humanity and England of so much suffering. 14 million lives is what he is estimated to have saved by shortening the war span. Turing (1912-1954) died early, 41 years or so, alone, and perhaps depressed and confused. The conviction imposed many restrictions on his movements and other work with government agencies. Some say it was suicide, some say, it was cyanide poisoning by inhalation. An apple was found in his lab which some feel contained the poison - Turing apparently loved the Snow White and the Dwarf''s scene of the evil step mother and her poisoned apple.

Turing was considered enigmatic by many standards as also a genius. He was an excellent long distance runner and occasionally ran the distance to London of 64 kms. He even tried for the British Olympic team.

As in most stories of such scale and passion, it is a love story deep within. For Christopher, for his work, for his lady love.

In 2013 the British government righted the wrong, apologised for its treatment of Turing and recognised his services. Lovely piece of work. I would like to watch it again.


Hmmm said...

Didn't know that thing abot Turing's favorite scene! Somehow societies seem to find a way to torture geniuses.:(

Had written about the movie some time ago here (apologies to make you go through my posts whenever you write something on similar topics :) ):

Harimohan said...

Lovely review Hmm. Actually you really review movies - I merely comment on them. I do envy the depth of your analysis. Nice.

I guess you are right. Geniuses are like silken strands, fragile, trying to express slivers of their thoughts before they die. It is very easy for society to misunderstand them, unless it is led by real intellectuals.