I have a new movie obsession. Yes, Queen Elsa has been deposed! I am no longer Frozen. Instead, my heart is taken by the story of a real man whose genius touches all our lives nearly every moment of every day.
His name was Alan Turing. I first heard his name in my cognitive psychology courses at the University of Nebraska. Turing’s ideas about the nature of thought itself led not only to creation of the first computers, but underscore how psychologists understand how our human brains process information. The famous Turing test (highlighted at the end of the film as “the Imitation Game”) makes us think about what thought is and how mental constructs relate to one another. Many computer scientists and social scientists have built upon Turing’s ideas, yet few before or since have made a greater impact on our lives.
When I first saw the above trailer for “The Imitation Game” I had no recollection of any of this of course. With the deluge of names that assaults a triple major university student, Turing’s name quickly left my mind after the final examination discussing his ideas in favour of other, more pressing names — like Abraham Maslow and Thomas Moore. With most of Turing’s achievements still classified until after I received my BA, I had little reason to think of Turing as anything more than one of many brilliant theorists.
That is until last week when I saw “The Imitation Game.” For those who have not yet seen the movie (and I urge you to do so), “The Imitation Game” tells the story of Hut 8, the ultra classified team led by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire who broke the unbreakable Nazi Enigma code. Except no one knew they broke the code — not until 1996 when the National Security Agency declassified important documents from WWII.
Though full of creative licenses that many argue damage the reputation of one of the 20th Century’s greatest minds (see fact check), the film beautifully dramatizes Turing’s close friendship with Joan Clarke, even if it distorts some of its most important details. You see Turing’s brilliant mind at work with performances that brought tears to my eyes. Unlike Russel Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind,” Benedict Cumberbatch really made me understand Turing and feel for him very deeply. Though I would never make many of Turing’s life choices myself, I really came to understand them. This is a film that inspires you to think about our individual differences and what makes us human. It is a film that compels us to play the “imitation game,” Turing’s test of what makes a person a person and how life, organic and artificial, thinks and processes information.
I am of course not being that specific. That is because I want you to see this movie without knowing too much about Turing himself. All I knew coming into the movie was that this film involved Enigma. I am so grateful for that lack of knowledge. It allowed me to watch without bias — exactly as Benedict Cumberbatch’s opening voice over from Turing asks us to.
Now that I have seen this movie, it is my absolute favourite. And did I mention the film score? I am a huge fan of film scores; this is one of the most beautiful scores I have heard in many years with a satisfying complexity and heavy use of both flute and piano.
In a word: beautiful!