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I had never heard of Alan Turing, the mathematical genius behind the
cracking of the German's `Enigma Code' during World War II, despite the
that he was also heavily involved in the invention of the digital
And I was amazed to learn from this excellent biography of Turing (who should surely be remembered as a `celebrity scientist' in the Einstein class) that the reason for his burial by the British establishment is the simple matter of his sexuality. Yes, Turing was gay in an era when homosexuality was not only unfashionable but indeed illegal!
Apart from the intrinsic interest of the subject, `Breaking the Code' is illuminated by a superb performance from Derek Jacobi (with a hint of his 'I Claudius' stammer) who brilliantly conveys not only Turing's fierce intelligence but also his enthusiasm for his discipline and his need to pass on this passion to his colleagues.
Supporting roles are well cast and played with playwright and sometime actor Harold Pinter not out of place beside veterans Richard Johnson and Prunella Scales but Jacobi's tour-de-force is the thing.
I hope I have encouraged you to see this British made-for-tv movie if you get a chance.
Based on the book, "The Enigma Of Intelligence", this film has to be one
the best scientific biopics ever made, either for TV or the silver
It manages to cover both the personal and scientific side of Turing's life, without becoming a documentary. Jacobi's performance is first rate (he was awarded for this film), and so are the supporting cast.
Unfortunately, many of the earlier aspects of Turing's life have to left out, due to time constraints.
If you enjoyed this film, then I heartily recommend you read the source book, which is also one of the best biographies going.
Anyone working, or involved with computers, should see this film, and the shabby way the British establishment treated the most important computer scientist since Babbage (sorry Noam).
Although excellent drama in its own right, with stellar acting and directing, the film is also one of the few insightful portrayals of creative genius. The film gets it all right, from depictions of Turing's precocious (yet difficult) boyhood, to accounts of the actual creative process. This is a must see film.
A moving depiction of the life of genius Alan Turing, the mathematician
broke Nazi Germany's Enigma code during WWII and who provided much of the
theoretical foundation of modern computer science. Jacobi masterfully
portrays Turing in all phases of his life, from his troubled days as a
student to his career as codebreaker at Bletchley Park, and to his later
suicide after having been hounded to the point of despair by an ungrateful
and mistrustful government over his homosexuality.
If this film has a flaw at all, it's that Jacobi is physically unlike Turing in every way; there's absolutely no point of resemblance. But his performance is so absorbing that you don't really notice until it's all over with.
I'm not interested in mathematics. Or the history of the computer. Or indeed, homosexual politics. But I am concerned with the talents, vicissitudes, suffering, blossoming, and achievements of human beings. And this is a tale full of humanity - and drama, as that humanity, and the talents and nature of Alan Turing are beaten down. The assault and damnation of his sexual orientation amount to a pervasive crime. It's about as dramatic a dynamic as you can find. And at the centre of it all: Derek Jacobi's remarkable performance. Forget I Claudius and Hamlet, this is his finest hour. Characteristically, he effortlessly takes us into the heart of Turing and allows us to feel his cleverness and his pain. His tender, acutely-observed performance induces us to rage, rage against the moon as this heroic character is beleaguered by the mores of the era, and in doing so, the deft Jacobi has somehow made the example of Turing one to benefit, push and shame mankind, as well as to inspire it to greater aspirations. A magnificent story, a magnificent, classic production, and an insurmountable performance at its heart.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Somewhat misleading if you want to learn about the history of
super-secret Bletchley Park (BP) and breaking the German's "Enigma"
codes during WWII. This film flits back and forth between pre and
post-war scene's describing some of Alan Turings involvement at BP, but
really focuses on the post WWII era leading to Turing's suicide. The
"codes" being broken in this story are social.
Turing's eccentricity and sexuality remain overlooked while he is vital to the war effort, but become the reason for mistrust, suspicion and even betrayal after-wards. Despite being a brilliant mathematician in a quest for beauty of mathematical truth in the Enigma codes, he is ultimately undone and outed by his own naivety.
This film is also an homage to the unique style of Harold Pinter's intense personal dialogue's. Pinter himself appears as the mysterious yet vague intelligence "handler" who confronts Turing after he becomes a security concern. These scenes are Turing's "soliloquy" to the question of what drives his loyalty to truth and in his mind, to England. As he comes to understand their distrust, his words resonate with an anti-MacCarthyan rhythm and represent the stark psychological volte-face from pre-WarII naivety to Cold War paranoia.
I came to this film thinking it would be about the code-breaking
element of Alan Turing's life, his work on the famous Enigma code and
computers and it took me a minute to get into the fact that the film is
actually much more about him as a man in the later stages of his life.
In this regard the film actually turns out to be more interesting than
it would have been if it just focused on the work side of the man;
certainly it serves up more for the writers and lead actor to work
I think it was a coincidence but the film was shown recently on BBC4 around the time that Channel 4 was marking the 40th anniversary of the legalisation of male homosexuality in the UK, which is a theme that is central in this film. The material brings out the genius and imagination of Turing but also the tragic confession that saw his life under threat. The film leaves us in no doubt that Turing was fortunate in his situation but that the illegal nature of his (now commonplace) sexual relationship saw his life threatened regardless of what he had done in the past.
It is this truth and this struggle that the film focuses on and it makes it more interesting as a result. Wise's direction is quite patient and still, which makes the film feel a little stagy and slow but works in the way it sits back and allows the cast to work. Specifically this serves Derek Jacobi well because his performance is impressive throughout, whether it is his passion for his subject or his sense of panic when he realises he has incriminated himself, he is convincing. Support is good from Armstrong, Scales, Pinter and others but the film does belong to Jacobi.
Overall then this is a slow film that may frustrate some viewers with its pace or the way that it overlooks Turings work in favour of him as a man. This does work though and makes for an interesting character piece and, other than the pace the only issue I had with it was the fact that the film concludes with the news that Turing was later recognised by having part of a roundabout in Manchester named after him. Surely it would have been better to have closed the film by remembering his contribution rather than this rather weak platitude?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's a low budget BBC version of a talky play about Alan Turing, a
brilliant mathematician and homosexual who is haunted by the
authorities and commits suicide. I don't know how the Brits do it. Here
we are, churning out expensive pep pills like "A Brilliant Mind."
Before watching it, I was a little afraid I'd get bogged down in math, a subject in which I have the skills of an ox. But there's not much about math in it. And the last thing we see of Turing being introduced to the Enigma machine, which controls the operation of German U-boats in World War II, is his pausing over this compact but complex apparatus, fingering his chin, and saying, "Hmmmm." He tries to explain it later, when the extent of bureaucratic interest in the interaction between his sex life and his secret research is becoming clearer to him, but he fails. I got more out of his impassioned spiel to his boss at Bletchley Park, Richard Johnson, when Turing goes on about "consistency, completeness, and decidability." I think I understood it because it has to do not just with math but with science in general. I got Goedel's paradox because Turing explains it so simply, and I got "decidability" only if it relates in the way I hope it does to Karl Popper. If that's wrong, I got lost.
That would be disappointing because I wanted MORE of an explanation of what his work was about. Instead, most of the film deals with the "enigma" of his sexual life. It's hard now to believe exactly how primitive our views of sexuality were sixty years ago, both in Britain and elsewhere. And Turing was no manipulator. Aside from his brainstorms and his spells of mutual masturbation, he was naive, blunt, and sloppy. Derek Jacobi has Turing and his mannerisms -- his whole personality -- pinned down perfectly. It's a masterful performance.
The rest of the cast does equally well. Turing's mother is the Queen of Denial. Richard Johnson is Turing's sympathetic but pragmatic boss at Bletchley. I've always admired Richard Johnson's work, ever since "The Haunting" (1963), in which he plays a character with my title and profession. Of course he's aged quite a bit and it sent me rushing to the mirror to make sure I was as radiantly youthful as ever. He does a marvelous job here as a bisexual who has learned the ropes. And, if nothing else, he illustrates exactly how ugly men's clothing was in 1940. If Turing had been a different sort of guy, he'd have leaped to his feet at their introduction and shouted, "That SUIT is a CATASTROPHE!"
It's a sad movie though. It leaves us wondering why we can't leave other people to their own devices as long as they hurt no one. At the time, the official argument was that you can't have "nancy boys" in positions where security might be compromised by blackmail. The solution, of course, is simple. Make it all perfectly public and legal in the first place.
On Octuber 7th, the United States went to war with Afganistan and tried to learn as much about the Tiliban as possible. Yet a decade later, America is no closer to victory than when it began. One of the Principal reasons for the slow progress is because the American military has banned it's gay cryptographers from service to it's country. It seems little has been learned from past mistakes such as the Brisish made during world War II. Back then it was a remarkable individual named Alan Turing, a British mathematician and cryptanalyst who Broke the mysterious German Egnima Machine and thus brought the War to a speedy end. In this film called " Breaking the Code " Derek Jacobi, plays Alan Turing who's insights and expertise solved that elusive problem. The life of Turing is prime example of what world government can do to destroy people who threaten the moral fiber of a country. Yet the movie itself is a half baked attempt to render the great man's life on film. Glossing over his life, it jumps from his youth to his later life stopping briefly to remind audiences of his hidden world as a reclusive gay individual. Alun Armstrong plays Mick Ross a British Inspector who investigates a minor robbery and discovers Turning's homosexuality, causing him to lose his anonymity and thus brings him to the pubic's attention, bringing him shame and ridicule. William Mannering plays a youthful Alan Turing, living with his mother who learns of his personal problems and the legal effects of the law. The film tries it's best to mix his past with his war-time achievements and falls short due to it's half handed attempt. Still, Jacobi is brilliant as the misunderstood scientist who has to undergo Chemical castration as part of his criminal sentence. This is a must movie for all his fans and I found it extremely well done. I easily recommend it to anyone studying the life Alan Turning. ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although the story of Alan Turing should be well known to everybody I
put in a spoiler alert..
Alan Turing's life is shown in this film, his fascination for mathematics started as a lifeline for his homosexual feelings.
The whole story is centered around Alan Turing being burglarized .. which leads eventually to his arrest for being homosexual... And his suicide..
But it shows how secrecy over wartime activities in Bletchley Park has haltered many brilliant minds in their civilian careers. The tragedy of not being able to enjoy what was his due... Although Alan was awarded an OBE his work was kept secret for years... And did not protect him in his personal life... sadly.
It is also testament to how an open society which does not shun those that are different from important positions (like the code breakers) beats a totalitarian regime like Nazi German. I also recommend you try to find the BBC -Code breakers, Bletchley park lost heroes- which shows 2 even more hidden geniuses, who worked at Bletchley.
It is a touching story, well acted (Derek Jacobi is always brilliant in his acting)
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