Monday, July 20, 2015

The Imitation Game & the SGU's Big Announcement

I was informed by the editor that she had rented "The Imitation Game" on iTunes as it was on special for 99¢.  So we settled down to watch it Saturday night after a long day at Hersheypark, our local amusement park.  I then checked my twitter feed and saw that Cara Santa Maria had been announced as the latest Rogue at TAM 13.  Therefore, I went back and listened to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe episode 497 which featured Maria as a guest Rogue.  Overall, Maria sounded as if she made a nice fit.  I plan to listen to a couple more episodes with her as a Rogue before commenting further.  I do hope her addition stirs the SGU pot a bit and freshens up the show.  

On this particular episode, the Rogues reviewed "The Imitation Game."  It was a bit freaky.  Perhaps not freaky enough to make it to The Odds Must be Crazy, but I listened to their take on the movie with interest.  I generally disagreed with the Rogues positive review.  

First, Benedict Cumberbatch, known for his modern portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on the BBC and as Khan in "Star Trek Into Darkness," was the best thing about the movie. Cumberbatch probably could play a loaf of bread in a elementary school production of the food pyramid and make it work.   

Cumberbatch portrays Alan Turing, an English Mathematician, who had been known for years as the father of the Turing Test in computer sciences.  Later on, it was revealed he played a pivotal role in breaking the Nazi code produced by the Enigma machine that assisted the Allies in immeasurable ways in defeating Nazi Germany.  The movie basically focuses on Turing's dramatized efforts to break the Nazi code with a mechanical computer named the Bombe Christopher.*  The film also deals with the arrest of Turing half a decade after the war for being found out as a practicing homosexual, and it deals with his time at Public School and the first person he fell in love with, a fellow student named Christopher.  The film wove in his relationship with cryptologist, Joan Clarke, played by Keira Knightly with whom he had a complicated relationship during his efforts to break the Nazi code.

Enigma Machine (wiki) 
Cumberbatch portrays a Turing that has a lot more in common with borderline autism spectrum Sheldon Cooper than the actual Turing.  The film also takes liberties on how much influence Turing had at the British code-breaking program Ultra based out of Bletchley Park.  To an extent, I can forgive such liberties in the pursuit of a clean narrative, but for me, the film went a tad too far.  To the extent that it strongly implied that Turing and his team decided which decoded information was actionable and which not to act upon is unbelievable. I am fairly certain the British had plenty of Admirals and Colonels to decide such truly life or death matters.  

I understand what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish by weaving in his boyhood, his wartime work, and his arrest together in this film.  However, the flashbacks going to flash forwards to the 'present time' during the war was a bit jarring at times.  The language used by the cast was a bit too modern.  An example is when people were removed from their job in 1940s Britain one was likely to be 'sacked' and not 'fired.'  This is not the Apprentice.  

I wanted to like this movie.  Knightly and Cumberbatch were both quite good and actually had good mix of tension and chemistry on screen.  Yet, ultimately the movie just never jelled for me.  It is a shame.  Turing who provided so much toward the defeat of Nazism and never received credit during his tragically short lifetime deserves a bit better.  

Spoiler: the Nazis lost the war.


*The name of the actual mechanical computer was the Bombe, but in the movie it is referred to as Christopher in honor of Turing boyhood crush.  When the machine came on I screen I blurted out it's "the Bomb!" The editor thought I was making a joke.  No.  It was actually called the bombe.  

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