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The Brits are terribly proud of the story of the Enigma, and claim it is single-handedly responsible for defeating the Germans: at some point, the Allied troops managed to capture a German encryption machine, and after some fumbling about they managed to decode the German wartime correspondence, with relevant consequences for the war outcome. The Imitation Game is about that fumbling. Alan Turing is hired to be part of a team that breaks German codes, and he tries to do so by developing what later becomes known as a predecessor to a modern computer. He does so in Oscar-bait style, with personality disorder and against the resistance of THE BUREAUCRACY, in this case the better part of the British government seeking to shut his operation down when no quick results are being achieved. There needs to be a love interest too, and that’s a pretty and clever lady who needs to work from a different shed in their headquarter camp, because brainy ladies are equally unpopular among the military and secret service and generally the British public school community as gays (supposedly Turing) and Russian spies (supposedly Turing, albeit more for script reasons than anything else, nothing really supports the whole “policeman tries to bring him down story).

The story as such is interesting, of course, even though well known in most parts. What I found most interesting is that there were actually two achievements: firstly, finding a way to quickly decrypt the German messages, and secondly and crucially: to not use all the information that was gained, but rather to dose it carefully so as to avoid the Germans getting wind of it and changing their encryption patterns. The film decides to dedicate most time to the question of breaking the codes. The second question – the moral ambiguity, the sacrifice of life for the benefit of the war cause – is much more interesting, but is crammed into some sentences towards the end, and it is not really clear how Turing himself and his team should have any say in this beyond gathering and forwarding whatever information is to be found. I would personally suppose that this was all none of his business, but maybe I missed some factual hints as to him only forwarding select information to the decision-makers?

My major problem with the film was that to me it never solved the “reality challenge” – even if you do not know anything about the real life events, you will have a strong opinion how the film will end after watching about five minutes. At the end of the day, the film’s script does not manage to add thrill, it does not achieve to surprise, to add anything beyond what we already know or strongly suspect. The ideal audience would be very much illiterate teenagers who have never heard of that war and who won it, I can imagine they would root quite a bit for Turing to crack those bloody codes. All the rest of us is checking some history lesson boxes, shelving this film as a well-intended, competently executed, and – yet again – slightly boring addition to the biopic genre.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_imitation_game/?search=imitation

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