Directed by: Morten Tyldum. Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Allen Leech, Tuppence Middleton, Rory Kinnear. 113 min. 12a.
Miscalculations beyond Mathematics
The Manchester of 1951 is an unlikely starting point for this Film’s tale of wartime miraculous secrecy and labourious detective work led by the deducing skills of the misfit, the duxes, the venerable seer of Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch who is mercurially adept at giving his all as the private detective his alter ego is.
If proof were needed BC plays the role of Alan Turing with accomplished anti-heroic finesse ably assisted by KK of whom more later.
Solutions are hard to come by in wartime and this film begins with the problematic fact of a break-1in at his Manchester home. The story is beginning at the playing out of the end episode of his truly claustrophobic life.
This tale is veristic and shows the ugly contemptible side of Sovereign life willing us to War, with its raw vindictive hurtful ruling class, power and authority pressing forward into War.
The Sovereignty again the despising foe after the War seems to be hung on the deplorable inhumane treatment of same sex relationships, with hypocrisy it seeks to obliterate vice or any foreseen sin.
The timescale of a film is such that to deliver the goods, and this film undoubtedly does, it is ambitious, framing it over three time periods.
The early school period, the post war period and the whole central arena of code breaking and the hazards, mostly human obstacles that are put in his way. The periods intersect and occur as script messengers. There is with the early period a film within a film about he young Alan Turing. A brilliant evocation of child sanctuary. It maybe a momentary relief and escape for us from the despair of the War beginning to overwhelm those in the line of fire. Certainly the expression of Alan’s earlier years are very incisive with the caveat the character traits are over elaborated.
When the Labour Party came to power after the war, it was after many had signed up within the army itself; a whole movement of the British Labour movement was sweeping into place.Denis Healey a Major, etc. mobilised a Socialist backlash in and after the War which Winston Churchill had not foreseen.
The man born in Blenheim was as good a wingman for the ruling classes and the Monarchy as could be imagined. The Blenheim thing is a remarkable history of working in concert with Sovereignty. He had the brains to make war winnable.
Oddly the film only makes a few references to the colossus (the official name of the AT machine also) Winston Churchill was in the very actions of Bletchley Park. The American influence he brought also lacking along with the actual USA connections.
The instrument of the fight back, of which he and the American forces could direct, in the knowledge certain things were foretold to them by Alan Turings breakthrough and was a basis of winning the War and ending it soonest. Hitler had overrun twenty four nations at least before Alan Turing came to Bletchley.
The absence of Churchill was an avoidance perhaps of the ruthless nature of his perceived wisdom and of his overseers and alliance to the Monarchy whose very existence was at the centre of the onslaught Hitler had framed. Churchill is incredibly difficult to read and that is because he was a polymath who through his life extolled the abolition of the House of Lords as it failed to represent thee ole and he foresaw the bitterness of the Irish being unable to design their own future as well as becoming in later life ‘devoted’ to Sufism as a way of dealing what had occurred.
It is also closely associated with mindfulness and the good grace to reflect and move on.
The Second World War was a completely savage animal.
It destroyed its children and ate the remains of souls and through the higher atonement of hopeless narratives of the likes of C.S.Lewis produced ‘Godless’ given lies to comfort the deranged, billeted, shock burnt, hovel dwelling, barrack bound dutiful meat of war as plenty.
The painful narrative was never exhumed.
Cause and Intent
Somewhere the common cause was unified. The aims of Monarchy, the Spirit of Freedom in the people.
Within the War were to be found the extremities of human brutality and from whatever standpoint, it began as a assault against a ferociously violent and destructive force it revealed more than humanity could have imagined.
The confusion of the aims of des Fuhrer and the hidden atrocities as concentration camps that reconnaissance must have identified were unknown by and large to the British Public yet they fought knowing the reality of the menace was no less than their loss of liberty.
Also unknown to the military and public were the levels of ‘higher’ intelligence and the technological background war which in the field basic radio phones and radar instruments much less penetratable.
The film highlights the duality of positions and their intractable evaluation in the moment. It can be no different now.
Counterfeit of Counterfactual Thoughts
Into this fog of War The Imitation Game looms large as the analog and cerebal force which took on the enemy and its cause of domination what ever it would conceivably become.
The arms in this case; the empowerment of the mechanisms of the fight, came in the form of manpower and brainpower.
Code-breakers are needed in all guises and the oddity that Benedict plays with elegant restraint and masterly eccentricity, is summoned to Bletchley to join a team being assembled to face the challenge set by the Naval Campaign being fought by the Germans in the seas off England. The food supplies to England from American where hitting the bottom of the sea.
And you are?
Occupying the interviewee seat in the empty office of Commander Alex. Dennison (Charles Dance) whose task it is to run the show and achieve results AT is harangued on his aptitude and self warranted and illustrious reputation and it wil come as no surprise that he is given a position on the team, of about five. Another component is present at the following team meeting in the grand setting of one of Bletchley House magnificent dining rooms. This is the relay officer back to Government. It is Mark Strong as the implement of MI6. His role is a greater characterisation which is complemented, the only complimentary mind to AT other than his own hireling KK. His playing is a constant. The acerbic and moderately ridiculous Commander is not played with the same astute learned reading as that of Mark Strong. The team who are like different faces of a dice and Alan Turing is the joker, the icicle supreme thinker whose tolerance; it works both ways, of these fellow skilled code breakers is something in which events construct connections are – Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), John Cairncross ( Allen Leech) and supposed Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard) with the director barely noticing this mathematician.
Formidable jobs and the need to get along exceptionally well is harvested through the initial contests for recognition. Others needed to express their own skills while Turing began the process he had created in his head. Hugh Alexander is a handsome Lothario who has it seems studied the essentials in the battle royale between the sexes by means of being a superior reader of flirtation which is the prologue to the fun times he relies on. It is well played and is another central character to provide dynamic and the contrapuntal story brought along efficiently but with a little clichéd hero and anti hero of the sort found in ‘Hotspur’ or ‘Boys Own’ ‘Eagle’ (and yes young ones there were little hero comics around even during wartime and they were full of manly types as the welsh might say) and the aim in the film which it achieves is to fulfill a history with little room for fault.
Alan Turing is much quieter and considered in his appreciation of the importance of the work but that is due to his higher confidence in breaking the code through a method he has constructed through long calculations which culminate in his own ‘Enigma’ machine. The others mainly do appreciate the task but are full of doubt.
Totnes got there earlier
Down in a room in Totnes, Somerset, there is a machine I once saw which in itself was staggering to encounter. The reason for going into the small establishment was mere curiousity. The Turing machine was an analog computer which relied on processing voltages and we see in the 1951 era the machine in his Manchester House which he continues to develop as a programmable device it comes in at about half the size.
What I saw was Charles Babbage’s extrordinary adding machine or difference calculus which was the precursor of the ‘analog’ and the pressure computer.
It not only looked beautiful, it was full of symmetry and appeared as a vision, as divining musical instrument. It was so long ago one fixed memory that remains with me is the winding spiral stair at one side which had as a handrail a very thick bound rope and you would ascend the stair to look down into the innards of this machine holding this fibre handrail which itself evoked a sense of ‘difference’. It was hard not to take in this truly groundbreaking technology.
It was built before 1871. Mr Babbage lived to the age of 79.
Encryption German style was their Enigma enciphering machine created for commercial use in the early 1920s and modified later and put into commission by the German and allies for military use in World War II.
His early childhood appears in segments throughout and we slide back down to the four foot tall Alan (Alex Lawther) whose handling of the part is very very impressive Jack Bannon) with whom he finds a kinship is equally strong.
It is here in the public school environment Alan Turing discovers so early in his life the difference he is among his fellow strand of humanity.
Christopher reads the mind of Alan fairly astutely and encouragingly he introduces him to what will be contained in his life, code breaking.
This element is as good and as important a composite in the telling of the life of Turing as the main body of the film. It is handled very well and while no part of the film explores his homosexuality and only makes a guess at what the need for a friend like Christopher indicated.
One portion of his hireling, found with a typically left field exercise is the cellular composition that resides inside the beautifully formed head of KK.
He doesn’t bat an eyelid or twitch his toes uncontrollably when Kiera Knightly comes on the scene. She comes with a crossword solving mind which impresses, besides her starry eyes and profound beauty is a woman with common ethics and standards. The machine invented by Turing has her, Joan Clarke as a formidable component in the jigsaw that breaks the code. How the machine Alan Turing has constructed finds a way to operate. Its operating system is given its own language by a whole permutation of all the minds in the Bletchley Park compound.
The figurative language of humans is the remarkable component of our relation to this story and the eventualities which we are still, after so many years, having to be courageous in facing further understanding of the history which has us where we are. The past is still concealed despite its having happened.
Bletchley had many serried ranks of women intercepting, noting every morse code message and the period detail of the film is illuminating.
The scenes between Cumberbatch and Knightly are the finest in the film and they have no shock value and play up the more than spiritual bond and it is akin to – without creating a quantum leap hopefully – their common knowledge; they are a pair of the most prodigious minds in the country, is summoning Plato whose ideas of impermanent physical objects (Alan and Joan) representing preformed unchanging ideas which are out with reach. Their shared knowledge of this is not uniform as Joan has set of relationship histories she can rely on. The peril is the fact there is no such element within AlanTuring which makes his fault lines obvious to him and unbridgeable. It is during this performance by Benedict Cumberbatch the evidence is sublimely advanced for a more relative and accurate assessment of a hidden life as far as that may exhume the demons and be of greater importance and value.
It is possible people may not be aware of this unconventional life and the Egham, Surrey (nr. Runnymede who always try to claim it) preserve of British high intelligence and it is still an unpardonable travesty of a persons humanity that his sexuality was to be the source of his destruction.
In a society in which he invented a means to bring closer the end of the monsters trail of barbarity, he was treated as a leper.
The knives were out and it is a vengefulness which has a very strange element even with the complexities of the times.
The Imitation Game gives no further insights but fleshes out the history in a clever and well formed way without venturing onto the landscape of Alan Turings struggles and his own perception of his sexuality and his desires for close relationships.
The strange things are never really uncovered and it is a rare case when they are.
The more compelling and important part, even underscored here; despite the initial simulated bombing footage mixed into war footage, and though it had a tragic end, is that Alan Turing saved countless lives and put down a blueprint for rational and considered judgement against the real prospect of another Attila crossing the globe and destroying the lives of nations living in peace. His politics are agnostic it seems.
The script is constructed in a time honored methodical adherence to type which seldom fails to loose you. The complex workings of Alan Turings gayness only is a recitation in overdub and never shows him in contact with anyone of the same sex – in keeping with the sullen, theatrical – it sometimes appears as if it is a play – protective pithy way some English film mainstream narratives attempt at filling too many boxes.
It ashamedly is marketed on the fall off of this past weeks commemorative events which cast back to the First World War and gets plenty of demerits on that alone as it is not of any further insight as far as the 100 year gap is concerned. That may be pushing cynicism to an extreme but could it not have appeared sooner and not in direct relation?
It is a film for which several accolades are due and hopefully a gong or two get to firstly, Benedict Cumberbatch, secondly, Kiera Knightly, and thirdly possibly something to be found for Mark Strong who balancing of the players at times makes this a very accomplished treatment.
Morten Tyldum. Honest this was the biggest available photo at the time!
Conclusion #### 4
Excellent polished film but not many surprises. Superb cast and excellent period Cinematography.
For a time when we are constantly reminded of War past and ongoing there is something of conscious restraint and painful regret that this film does not hit as hard say as The Dambusters or even Oh what a Lovely War and many other stories of War. The reason is it is set in the machinations of strategy and preparation.
The English backdrop is one of intrigue and intelligence coupled with fear and foreboding. The War is barely imagined within the film, except through simulated footage and World at War reels during it, and in the Maps sometimes referred to and an excerpt inside London. Time allows more.
This off theatre of War is able to direct us to the aims and conditions for War. The terrible actions of weaponry is seen on a large scale and the machine against machine is in counterbalance with the intelligence trail led by the likes of Alan Turing whose part in deciphering through his own genius the Enigma Coding frame is put into brilliant focus.
The talents of Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightly show in deciphering their characters with cleverness and adducent period authority enough hopefully for a few gongs. Is there a hesitancy in not treating Alan Turing’s sexuality more forthrightly a play towards larger audiences say in America? Is that really part of the deal with films of a very important central subject? Some scenes could have been dropped without loosing a great deal I would venture
Well worth the effort of going to see. It will undoubtedly pick up a few wards but which ones is down to the subjective minds of the judges.
At QFT Belfast from Friday 14 November to Thursday 27 November 2014
Magna est veritas, et praevalebit
Truth is great and will prevail.
Bletchley Park is open to visitors and is just past Runnymede.
On the South Bank of the Thames West of London.
The people of Runnymede can soon be found celebrating the granting of the Magna Carta 800 years ago in 1215 by King John.
It was only after the people coerced him of course! and though we still are under the illusion the rights of man are known these were thought at the time the basis of any fundamental constitution or law guaranteeing rights and liberties.
Wallingford is further down the Thames near Reading and gets is name from the route ‘forded’ by William the Conqueror (Duke of Normandy) in 1066, (not to be confused with Wilhelm 1) choosing to go north past London.
That way he survived and so the song goes ‘From a Duke to King!.’
Is it near the ‘Ford Escort’ factory in Reading I wonder?
Or did they make the Capri there? I’ll have to Google it.
Totnes is nowhere near the above and it is unlikely to be the source of the Thames either! More Googling but the Babbage Computer is a phenomenal object and it is pre-industrial revolution whatever that may signify!