November 17, 2023
Peter Calder

A Telling Example of an Unheard-of Hero: The Imitation Game (2 minute read)

This week, I’m diving into an impressive feature, The Imitation Game.

Categorized as a wartime drama, this film revolves around an extraordinary individual, Alan Turning. Reflecting on Remembrance Day, this is an essential watch as a wartime film.

Alan Turning, a simple mathematician, stereotypically the farthest thing from an obedient, conventional soldier, was tasked with breaking the German codes during the Second World War. He faced many challenges working in the British military as well as living in 1940s England, including being a  homosexual, which was illegal, social skills and, of course, breaking the unbreakable German code machine, Enigma.  

The story explores various areas of Alan’s life, jumping from his childhood, working during the war and his life after the war. This timeline jumping is very important to the film’s overall narrative; this takes it a step further than being a simple wartime film. We can explore and observe the sheer torture that Alan endured and the impact he brought to the world throughout his life.

In the early years, we see the beginning of what a mathematical prodigy looks like, as well as his social life, being lonely and bullied in boarding school. The bulk of the film takes place in the war. Alan was brought alongside other top mathematicians to work for what is now known as GCHQ, a secret British intelligence service.

During this film timeline, we explore Alan’s struggle with working with other people and his profound impact in breaking Enigma to bring World War 2 to a close eventually. The decryption machine that Alan and his team built to break the codes was also an early iteration of a computer. This is why  Alan Turing is often given credit for being one of the first inventors of the computer.

The later end of Turing’s life showed us the unfortunate way our society treated him in his post-war life. Alan was convicted of “gross indecency” for being homosexual and was chemically castrated, which led to him eventually taking his own life in 1954, just nine years after he helped end the Second World War. The film covered many areas and themes, which all encircled this impressive individual who worked, lived and flew under the radar. It was a no-brainer for his story to be brought to the big screen.  

Alan Turing was an extraordinary individual who made some of the biggest and incalculable achievements and advancements in our society, including the beginning of what people use every day, the computer and the fundamental start of artificial intelligence.

Unfortunately, society did not fully appreciate Alan Turing’s work and life until after his tragic death, similar to the great artist Vincent Van Gogh. All of Alan’s wartime work was kept classified until it was released to the public in 2012, and then two years later, The Imitation Game was aired. It’s also important to mention that this film is a dramatic, scripted piece, not a documentary. Alan Turing was awarded a pardon in 2013.