I’d wanted to see this movie during its theatre run earlier this year, but never quite fit it in. But it’s now available on Netflix, and we watched it this weekend.
It tells the story of how Alan Turing managed to crack the “unbreakable” Enigma communication code the Germans used during World War II (making it a decent movie choice for Remembrance Day). Turing was brilliant, obviously, but also eccentric and very much lacking in social skills. Ttoday, he likely would have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. So his challenges in completing the mission were as much personal as technological; the rest of the team initially couldn’t stand him.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Turing. The other big star in it is Keira Knightly, as a brilliant mathematician whose gender has greatly limited her options, until the chance to work as part of Turing’s small, covert team. Both are very good.
Code-breaking is detailed and time-consuming work, but largely through the various personal conflicts, along with huge stakes in human lives, the movie tells the story in a very interesting way. Turing builds a machine to help decipher the code (and hence ultimately becomes the father of modern computing). And after the code was broken, we see why terrible calculations and deception had to continue.
Turing’s being homosexual at a time when this was illegal lends an undercurrent of sadness to the film. In the movie, he tells his wartime story after being arrested for “gross indecency”. In the end, we see the devastating effects of his “chemical castration” sentence.
But overall, though serious, the movie is not a huge downer. It has its moments of humour, and it’s a story worth knowing.