Who could have predicted the impact that Alan Turing’s work would have on technology? The Imitation Game, directed by Morten Tyldum, explores the short but monumentally influential life of Alan Turing. Turing, portrayed in the film by Benedict Cumberbatch, was a British mathematician and computer scientist from Cambridge University that was primarily responsible for a majority of the logic used to decipher the Enigma Code, a cryptography system used by the Axis Powers to communicate in World War II.
Turing is also renowned as one of the fathers of computer science for formulating concepts such as algorithms and computation, which remain fundamental to theoretical computer science. Additionally, he created a model system found within modern personal computers, appropriately named a Turing machine.
The film discusses the details of Turing’s life, beginning with a tumultuous childhood. After losing a close friend and romantic interest to tuberculosis, he begins to work for Bletchley Park, which housed the United Kingdom’s Government Code and Cypher School. He joins the team that has been tasked with tackling the Enigma machine. The film explores the difficulties Turing faced while working to decipher the code, including his struggle to cooperate with other team members, avoiding the Axis Powers from discovering the group’s progress, and his homosexuality.
Turing’s life was unfortunately cut short at age 41 in 1954, following a year of compulsory chemical castration. This punishment was ruled as an alternative to prison time by the United Kingdom after he confessed to a homosexual relationship, which was then illegal in the country. Additionally, as part of the punishment, he was barred from continuing his work on cryptography at Bletchley Park and was not permitted to share his findings from research during the war. Turing was found dead by his housekeeper and the official cause was ruled to be cyanide poisoning.
The film exceeded my expectations, especially considering the film was independently produced; I believe the film sufficiently portrayed the details and significance of Turing’s life. The film also shed light on the importance of computer science and cryptography, which are both becoming widely demanded as the world advances further and further into a technologically-dependent world.
Furthermore, I agree with civil rights activists that have praised the film, as it portrays the inhumane treatment of individuals during the time who were unfairly convicted of crimes when, by today’s standards, had been perpetrated. It also highlights the progress that today’s world has made towards equality and acceptance.
Regardless your interest in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, I strongly recommend everyone takes the opportunity to see The Imitation Game.