My wife and I saw The Imitation Game yesterday. It’s a fantastic movie. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance deserves an Oscar. Cumberbatch portrays the great mathematician Alan Turing, who has a cameo role in my thriller Download. The movie is about Turing’s tortured personality, but it is centered about the breaking of the unbreakable Nazi Enigma code in World War II. I’ve been interested in codebreaking since my Navy time at the Naval Security Group, and codebreaking and electronic intercepts are a key component of Download.
The Imitation Game revolves around real historical people and real historical events. By all accounts the movie does not deal faithfully with either. Turing played a critical role in the breaking of the Nazi Enigma code, but he was one person of a huge effort involving thousands of people, not the six analysts in the film. Turing’s film personality is also likely not accurate.
These inaccuracies are good. A painstakingly faithful history of the codebreaking effort would be boring. The Imitation Game captures the essence of this effort, the social restrictions of England seventy-five years ago, and the moral dilemmas faced by Turing, Winston Churchill, and all in the intelligence community when they finally held the uncoded Enigma messages. Do they use the information now and save lives, but risk compromising their codebreaking efforts, or do they use the information more judiciously and strategically?
In less than two hours the makers of The Imitation Game successfuly capture the essence of these times and people better than a history book. I encourage you to see the movie if you haven’t already.