The Imitation Game is the screen adaptation of Alan Turing’s biography (Alan Turing: The Enigma), written by Andrew Hodges in 1983 and published after the film’s release.
In 1939, mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing agreed to help his country, Great Britain, defeat Germany and end the world conflict in the shortest possible time; the mission consisted of decrypting the codes that the Nazis used in communications concerning military operations and spying activities in general: the coding of the information was changed daily through a machine, which was given the name Enigma.
The mission, handled with the greatest secrecy by the intelligence and the government itself, was considered by most to be simply impossible and a useless waste of money that might otherwise have been used, perhaps to support the war effort.
Turing was initially included in a group of people considered capable of contributing to the enterprise; he then succeeded in becoming its leader, getting the members he considered unsuitable for the task to leave and replacing them with people with specific characteristics.
Once the group was established, Turing asked the government for funding of £100,000 to build a machine that could decrypt all the codes that Enigma defined daily; now I stop with the plot because I think that what I told you so far may be enough to keep you going.
I will only add that his homosexuality (which was illegal in Britain at the time and depenalisation only occurred in 1967!) added complexity to his relationships and the whole story.
Now watch the trailer, then we’ll make other comments.
What you can learn from this film
A beautiful film that offers countless points of observation and food for thought:
among the first aspects, you will notice in the film the prevailing belief at Bletchley Park, where the film is set, that women are genetically unsuited to roles involving mathematics and science subjects in general. A prejudice that still fiercely resists today;
the other team members were attempting to decrypt the single code, which would have been changed at midnight of the same day, trusting to find the key to decrypt the next one; Turing from the very beginning aimed to identify the mechanism by which Enigma defined the code every day. Turing could manage complexity better than anyone before him, and this led him to success;
people with superior talent often find it difficult to fit into a team and lead it; Turing was no exception. The inclusion in the team of a woman, who later became his wife, supported him in this difficult task; Joan helped him to create a team capable of working with everyone and capitalising on differences, looking at things from a different perspective and creating the basis for achieving the mission’s goals;
people often reject things they do not understand. Turing and his staff faced the scepticism of people who had involved them in the mission, but thought that it would have been impossible to decrypt the single code generated by Enigma; how would they have imagined a machine capable of interpreting every single message that the Nazi machine would have generated? This situation led to internal conflicts within the government and the intelligence, and these conflicts systematically impacted the team of scientists and made their work particularly tough;
in the background of the story we find homosexuality, which makes the human story complex and interweaves the inner turmoil, the group dynamics and the persecution that had so much influence on Turing’s decision to take his own life in 1954, when he was only 41 years old.