(Originally published October, 2014) The new British film The Imitation Game illustrates the remarkable life of mathematician and computer science pioneer Alan Turing. It will open in theaters on November 21.
This 30-minute video interview with the film’s director Morten Tyldum, actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, and screenwriter Graham Moore, is worth watching. I can’t wait to see the movie. I’m happy that the screenplay is based on Andrew Hodges’ definitive biography Alan Turing: The Enigma. (Hodges is a mathematician, so if you’d like, he can walk you through Turing’s reasoning based on number theory that led to the routine decryption of messages that were encrypted by the German Navy’s Enigma machines.) Hodges’ biography is a wonderful book that I use as a reference.
Screenwriter Moore describes Mr. Turing as “the outsider’s outsider”. Director Tyldum calls The Imitation Game “a story about outsiders, those who are different.” “The mission of the movie is to celebrate uniqueness — individuality.”
Watch the movie trailer.
Update, 28 Dec 2014 Mathematician Simon Singh saw the movie and quipped in a Science Friday interview that it’s “filled with factual errors, full of flaws, and in that respect it’s a terrible, terrible film” but in other ways it’s a “brilliant, great film”. According to Singh, the movie errs in dozens of details. Notable errors:
- At Bletchley Park during WW2, Turing is shown building a general purpose computer dubbed “Christopher”, which supposedly was used to decipher scrambled German messages that had been encrypted with the Enigma machine. This is wrong. Turing did create the algorithms for, design, and participate in the construction of multiple dedicated electromechanical single-purpose calculators that were used to decipher Enigma-encrypted messages. These machines were called bombes.
- In 1952, through detective work, the Manchester police discovered that Turing was a homosexual. In fact, Alan’s flat was burgled by, he suspected, a homosexual paramour. Outraged, he reported it to police, and mentioned that, yes, he had had a few trysts with the suspect. The police charged him with “lewd and indecent acts” (the same crime that had put Oscar Wilde behind bars a few decades earlier).
I view these errors as serious flaws, but I suppose that Hollywood feels a need to juice up the facts.
November 2015: I’m not going to watch this movie. Reviews by knowledgeable people who’ve seen it decry its many inaccuracies. Just one of many negative reviews on IMDB:
Another Weinstein production that is obvious and sad. Pushing the main Hollywood agenda of homosexuality. Sad and practically comical A very demeaning exploitation of the real heroes and suffering in WWII and woe is the lone gay guy losing the battle to the evil empire of the moral world. Save your money. The acting was made trite by the twisted story and the depth was a deep as a sippy cup. Really disappointing but of course will get tons of attention due to the publicity budget from this group. This once again confirms that you can no longer see a big name production without expecting the story to be trivialized and contain the jaded view of the liberal left who is in a ship going down.
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