Copyright © 2014 by The Weinstein Company
At the start of World War II, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is hired by Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance) as a cryptanalyst to manually decode the Enigma machine used by the Nazis for their encrypted messages. However, the process is too time consuming and the setting of the device changes everyday. To hasten the collaborative efforts from his team mates comprising of Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), John Cairncross (Allen Leech), Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard) and Jack Good (James Northcote), Turing designs a bombe and builds it via funding from the British Prime Minister. If the equipment succeeds, the Allied forces will have the upper hand over the Axis powers.
Last I checked, being ‘unique’ is not a crime. In fact, it is celebrated for the excitement diversity has contributed to a modern society emerging more pallid and droning by the day. While still taboo as far as homosexuality is concerned, homosexuals now are at least treated with the respect they deserve, judged not for their preferences but capabilities and have made progressive strides in well-rounded depictions on either television or film.
Not so if you are Turing or any of the 49,000 British men who are unjustly sentenced for gross indecency living between 1885 and 1967. A historic achievement in breaking the Enigma code with the help of the bombe he developed during his employment at Bletchley Park not only truncated the Second World War by two years, it also managed to save more than 14 million lives. Though a collective participation, there is nothing short of greatness.
A tightly guarded secret for more than half a century, he is forbidden to reveal any of the details and chemically castrating him for his proclivity towards other men is the sole ‘reward’ the government has bequeathed to this mathematical whiz until a royal pardon is accorded by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013. Capturing Turing’s oddities and infusing with affecting sincerity is played out by a self-assured Cumberbatch and his younger self being supremely emulated by Alex Lawther.
The troubled and misunderstood logician can be loathsome but Cumberbatch’s prowess in deciphering his protagonist’s lack of people skills is speedily compensated with just enough sweetness in a room full of disbelievers. His thorny relationships with his colleagues and superior (albeit exaggerated for dramatic effect) are funny yet requisite to his firm principles that his machine will work. In comes Knightley who relieves some of the tension away from the battle of the brains.
Recruited for correctly solving a crossword puzzle and surpassing Turing’s test, Knightley is willful, intelligent and unabashedly forward, a woman you do not want to be embroiled with in a game of wits. She rises above the hierarchy which has been placed on women in that period and her budding friendship with Turing serves as an antithesis to a decrepit world. Knightley may be too glamourous but the criteria should not hinder the selection if she has the range to pull it off.
Despite garnering Graham Moore an Oscar for his screenplay, prior to the win, he has been barraged with criticisms for the inaccurate portrayal of the characters (Turing, Clarke and Denniston) and proceedings (breaking Enigma and a double agent in the midst). The fact is still unchanged that one man’s (and team) ambition to stop a global threat cemented the way in the advancement of artificial intelligence we now know as the computer. My friend, there is hardly anything imitation about it.
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking