Alan Turing a British pioneering computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, mathematical biologist, marathon and ultra distance runner.
On top of these achievements he is also credited with largely saving the lives of 14 million people by helping to end World War 2 two years early.
Why have most of the general public not heard of this genius?
Because due to his sexuality he was victimised, convicted and treated appallingly, despite his incalculable wartime contribution, by the UK establishment in the 1950’s.
With the facts well known Director Morten Tyldum has managed to craft a fictionalised account, albeit largely based on fact, recounting the main beats of Turing’s life.
The film switches between three passages of time, boarding school days including bullying and young infatuation, Wartime efforts to break the German “Enigma” code at Bletchley Park and Turing’s arrest and subsequent disgrace in 1951.
The film by necessity requires massive oversimplification ignoring the earlier Polish contributions to his machine and his post war groundwork that laid the foundation for modern computers we use today.
With so much of the story and film resting on the central character, a great actor is required and Turing is played here in a so far career best by Benedict Cumberbatch, his star rising so fast it is difficult to keep pace.
This is a story waiting to be told on the big screen and the film does justice to someone now recognised, with a Royal Pardon in 2013, as a national war hero. Cumberbatch provides a wholly believable character, arrogant, focused, yet without the necessary social graces and interactions required to be part of a team.
Turing quickly realised that cracking the unbreakable German Naval code with some 150 million variables in just twelve hours with human minds was impossible.
Requiring a digital machine that did not fully exist, he simply requested money direct from Churchill and built one to do the job. By breaking the codes used by the German war effort, this opened a Pandora’s box as to how the information could be used effectively, the implications remaining a state secret until recently.
Turing is aided by his team led by Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) and hindered every step by the military hierarchy lead by Commader Denniston (Charles Dance), we also see a glimpse into the murky world Turing entered, with the shadowy presence of MI6 (Mark Strong).
The central role of Joan Clarke (Keira Knightly) as a code breaker and potential love interest has riled some reviewers, arguably downplaying Turing’s homosexuality, although this aspect is certainly not hidden.
The supporting cast are strong with Dance and Strong adding heft to the background, Knightly does surprisingly well, given her manner is arguably more suited to a modern setting. Mention should also be made of the young Turing (Alex Lawther), portraying a closing scene quite beautifully.
Another excellent performance from Cumberbatch with whispers of Oscar potential, whilst some aspects of the film are somewhat clichéd, his performance transcends these minor gripes, ensuring the story can be enjoyed by many.
In 2015 it is difficult to believe that in Churchill’s own words “Turing made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war against Nazi Germany” and yet ended up allegedly ending his own life due to his treatment imposed by the authorities at the time
Overall an excellent film deserving of two hours of your time, highly recommended
Highly entertaining, thoughtful and worthy in the best sense. This helps to shine a light on a inspirational yet equally dark chapter in UK history.
With a searing performance from Cumberbatch, Turing can take his rightful place as one of the greats in the history of World War 2, the evolution of computing and what it means to be human.