Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Game of Life

The Imitation Game (2014) has two things going for it: it is the story of mathematician Alan Turing, and he is played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

The story of Turing is fascinating: He was a brilliant but socially maladroit mathematician who broke the Nazi Enigma code, working in a secret facility in Bletchley Park. (I don't know if the British TV series The Bletchley Circle was inspired by the movie or if it's just one of those things.) He was also a homosexual, at a time where that was a serious crime. In fact, some years after the war, he was convicted and "chemically castrated", which is as horrible as it sounds. His wartime heroism was still top-secret.

I don't think it is a stretch for Mr. Bunnydick Cucumberpatch to play an autistic genius. It is getting to be a bit of a niche. Suffice it to say he does a great job here, but it is more of a Cambershaft performance than a Turing performance. Unless Alan Turing really did sound and act like Binkydink Camouflage, which is possible. In fact, people who knew Turing say his imitation was uncanny, so I withdraw my objections, and promise to stop making up silly names for him.

Unfortunately, while the acting is great, I felt that some of the drama was a little forced. The scene where Turing finally breaks the code, and realizes that they will have to let a German attack proceed or risk giving away the game has the stakes raised one or two too many times. Although, maybe that was actually true to life as well.

The actual code breaking was interesting and seemed very realistic- in fact, I would have enjoyed more of that, and maybe more of Turings thoughts on machine intelligence and the Imitation Game. The original game involves a man and a woman in two separate rooms, and you have to guess which is the woman, only communicating by typewriter. In Turing's version, you have to guess which is a computer. That helps you think about whether computers can think like humans, but also whether woman can think like men, and of course, whether homosexuals can think like heterosexuals. But I suppose they didn't need to spell it out.

Alan Turing committed suicide not long after he was convicted of indecency. The Queen pardoned him in 2003. This is a worthwhile story to tell.

No comments: