Clenching the Nomination - The Imitation Game - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
20Feb/150

Clenching the Nomination – The Imitation Game

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Ryan discusses the scene in Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game that he thinks secured the film's Best Picture nomination. You can check out all of our overall guesses on the major Oscar categories for 2015 here.

The Imitation GameIn The Imitation Game, the good guys get what they want about half way through the movie.  The teams of British codebreakers finally figure out how to break the German’s Enigma Machine using their computer and the phrase “Heil Hitler”.  They break the code, figure out the German troops movements during World War II and they all start to celebrate.  Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightley), Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode) and John Cairncross (John Leech) all start dancing around the room and are about to call the British general to tell them of a fleet of British ships in danger when the camera pans over to Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is not at all celebrating.  Like he does through most of the film, he is thinking a few steps ahead, looking at all the outcomes and states plainly that they can’t tell the British that they cracked the code, all of a sudden the celebration ends.

Getting what you want is sometimes not the whole story and it isn’t the win you thought it would be and this is very true in this instance.  All of these people gave years to their life for the good of the British government with one goal in mind, to crack the Enigma that the German’s used for all their war correspondence.  For months on end, that was the only thing they did, they lived, slept, breathed and ate while thinking of breaking the code.  While they did it to help win the war, the underlining reason was to stick it to the German’s, to show that Britain might have been smacked around by the Nazis during WWII but they weren’t out of the fight yet, that they were smarter and more capable than them.  Yet with Turing’s declaration, their whole purpose and reason to get up in the morning was turned on its ear.  They can’t stick it to the Germans like they wanted; they can’t prove they were smarter.  They had to be quiet and suffer a worse fate than animosity.

What Turing figured out was if they notified the British troops, the German army would figure out that the Enigma was cracked and then create something new.  The British government would then have to start all over again and try to crack the new code.  What Turing slowly convinces the group of was something even worse, that they would have to play God in a way, that they would pick and choose what news got out and what did not.  This way England would utilize cracking the code but not enough that the Germans would get wise.  This way less English would end up dead, but there would still be a long casualty list and every name would weigh heavily on the group.

In the scene where this is realized, Cumberbatch does not go overboard but you see the toll that this is going to take.  Turing was very bright man and worked all the numbers and situations in his head while the others were still basking in their victory.  Turing realizes what needs to be done, how awful it is and how it is on his shoulders to do it.  He does not throw a fit or curse the fates, he puts his head down and does what he needs to do, like he had done in the past.

While the movie showed that many of his contemporaries did not understand Turing or even thought he was anything more than slightly human, Cumberbatch in his low key acting showed that this was not true.  As the movie progresses and you see bits and pieces of the formula Turing and his team use to pick who lives and who dies, you see bits and pieces of his soul fall off, never to be recovered.  What he has to do is awful and the scene takes one step too far by making a big deal of how one of the characters had a brother on the fleet that would be sunk, but other than that misstep, this scene is a perfect microcosm of Turing.

The character was one who had a great big helping of shit thrown on him again and again but kept moving on.  He was not well liked, was gay in a world that thought him a criminal and helped save the free world with a scant few knowing his contributions while he was still alive.  The movie ends with the acknowledgement that within a decade of WWII ending he would take his own life.  The man could only take so much until he had enough and thought of no way out.  It is a tragic end to the life story of a very important man of the 20th century and without the scene where his calculations and intelligence not only saved WWII but damned him, it would not have been as powerful as a movie.

While the scene wasn’t perfect, it captures what the movie was in a few minutes.  A story well told and well acted but not a flawless film.  Much like Turing did, you can look at this one scene and figure out the rest of the story, for good and for bad, and that is what a worthwhile scene should do, build upon itself that it isn’t until later that you figure out the magnitude of that one action.

Posted by Andrew

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