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Thread: Review: The Imitation Game

  1. #1
    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Review: The Imitation Game

    I don't see a lot of films these days, but it hit 41 degrees C here Saturday & I don't have aircon, so of to the local cinema. There was a good crowd - partly driven by a desire to escape the heat I suspect.

    For those who aren't aware, this is a film about Alan Turing, probably the key figure in the breaking of German ENIGMA codes during WW2. He was also a central figure in the development of modern computers. I've had an interest in Turing for years. One of those tragic geniuses whose work touched billions of lives, but who is under recognized & under appreciated outside academia.

    Positives: Benedict Cumberbatch was great as Turing. Really brought depth & pathos to the role. Great support cast too. I don't think I've seen Mark Strong in a bad role. I'm also pleased that this film will bring the story to a generation who would know little about it & an audience who might not much care otherwise. The film looks good too, and the story moves along nicely.

    Negatives: Does violence to the facts. I don't want to come across as overly pedantic here. I do get that films feel the need to oversimplify & muck around with facts to create recognizable tropes - the tragic hero struggling alone against unbending authority. I also get that facts get shunted about to condense big, complex events into bits-sized chunks. However, I do draw the line at mischaracterizing people to the point of slander, especially when it is pure invention. This happens with Turing himself & with his boss. It is even more unfortunate as many in the audience will have their understanding of these events largely or entirely shaped by this film. Most of the contrivances are excusable, but one or two could have been dropped for the sake of not defaming the dead.

    Having said that, it is an enjoyable & worthwhile film & it puts the achievements of one of the more remarkable & important people of the C20th centre stage. Worth a visit to the Cinema.

    My suggestion is that if anyone does see the film, read this afterward (its short):

    The Imitation Game - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    and if you have the inclination, this too:

    Alan Turing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C

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    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    Cumberbatch really is an amazing actor. But I too was a bit worried watching the trailers. I thought Turing and his guys had the full support of Great Britain's military, not obstructed at every turn as the trailer seems to suggest.
    All those who are merciful with the cruel will come to be cruel to the merciful.
    -Talmud Kohelet Rabbah, 7:16.

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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Triple C View Post
    Cumberbatch really is an amazing actor. But I too was a bit worried watching the trailers. I thought Turing and his guys had the full support of Great Britain's military, not obstructed at every turn as the trailer seems to suggest.
    They did. That is one of the issues with the film I was alluding to. There was some truth to the idea that they were under-resourced until a direct appeal to a....higher authority....but it didn't go the way it is depicted.

    It isn't great history, but it is a decent film.


    Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C

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    Regular Sanjac's Avatar
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    Thanks for this! I did enjoy the film (bought it solely because Benedict Cumberbatch plays the lead role), but I was wondering how historically accurate it was.

    Turing's antagonists did strike me as a bit cartoonish, as if someone had a political agenda in the background. That strikes me as unnecessary drama, since the challenge of breaking of code was enough to carry the story. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining way to review the significance of breaking the Enigma code in World War II.

    Was the way they broke the code by noticing that Germany started each day with a weather report historically accurate?

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    Dirty Kiwi Senior Contributor
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sanjac View Post
    Was the way they broke the code by noticing that Germany started each day with a weather report historically accurate?
    Sort of. It was the Poles who broke enigma by using algorithms to recognisie repetitive patterns. Turing and the others built on their work, specifically by refining the algorithms to recognise those patterns when they occurred and industrialising the mathematical processes to decrypt. Avoiding habit is the most difficult of all human activity.
    In the realm of spirit, seek clarity; in the material world, seek utility

    Gottfried Leibniz

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sanjac View Post
    Was the way they broke the code by noticing that Germany started each day with a weather report historically accurate?
    Don't know about that, but it's highly possible.

    A History channel program stated that a big part of decrypting German code was that German commanders send everything in code, including the long winded birthday wishes from the field commanders to the Fuehrer. How many variations of "happy birthday" could there be in German?
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Regular Sanjac's Avatar
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    The impression that I got was that they had to solve a new cipher each day, and that it was the repetitive nature of the weather reports at the start of the day that made it possible. The word "Weather" was always in the same place at the start, and the messages always ended with "Heil Hitler."

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    Dirty Kiwi Senior Contributor
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    If you want an overview of Turing and Hut 6, along with the American efforts against the Japanese, I recommend Cryptonomicon by Neal Stevenson. It's fiction based around cryptanalysis and a good potboiler read.
    In the realm of spirit, seek clarity; in the material world, seek utility

    Gottfried Leibniz

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    I felt that the film lacked the weight that the subject material deserved. While I would echo Bigfella's OP sentiments of bringing the story to a modern audience, I was also disappointed with the brief handling of Turing post war life, although I understand it from a pacing and plot perspective.

    The idea of only a handful of individuals fighting against the establishment was unnecessary, surely the true source material had enough wow factor if treated right, and I do feel for the Poles, a opportunity to credit their early and largely forgotten efforts was yet an another opportunity to account history in proportion - missed. Although I do believe they got a brief mention.

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