“Mr. Turing, do you know how many people have died because of Enigma? Three. Whilst we’ve been having this conversation.”
It is remarkable to think that because of the actions of one man we are all here today. If it wasn’t for the brilliant mind of mathematician Alan Turing then Germany could have prevailed in the Second World War and the country we live in now could be a very different place. It was down to his actions that historians believe the war lasted two years shorter than it could have done and approximately 14 million lives were spared in the process. But the country he saved turned its back on him and did so for nearly seven decades until in 2013 when Queen Elizabeth II granted him a posthumous pardon for the way he was treated simply because of who he was and not what he did.
During the Second World War the British Government employed a team of expert mathematicians and problem solvers to try and decipher one of the greatest codes in World History used by the Germans, The Enigma Code. Coded messages would be sent giving detailed briefs and instructions for planned attacks on the British. Alan Turing applied for a role and, despite showing a great deal of arrogance during his interview with the Commander in charge, was reluctantly accepted into the programme purely on the basis that he believed you’d need to build a machine to defeat a machine.
It is later revealed that Turing was to work for a team, but he wanted to work alone and slowly and reluctantly agreed to it, later developing a bond with his new colleagues. When Turing was refused the funding to back his machine he went to the highest source possible, Winston Churchill, who granted the funding and also placed Turing in complete control of the operation which began to take more and more time to develop.
With threats of closure and dismissal aimed towards him, he and his colleagues had to fight for the right to continue the project as pressured mounted on them to succeed. The machine, now fully built, was struggling to obtain any relevant information until one day when it all became clear to Alan Turing.
Despite his heroics, Turing lived in a time where laws were strict. He also hid a dark secret from a lot of the people he worked with for fear of repercussion. For Alan Turing was a homosexual and had a history that he wished to keep secret, for if the truth came out, then Turing could be in serious trouble.
Director Morten Tyldum has portrayed the chronicle of Turing’s life beautifully choosing to drift the story from present day, to his childhood at school and during the building of the machine. It allows important elements of Turing’s upbringing and personal affairs play to the forefront providing important information about Turing the man as opposed to what he achieved.
Benedict Cumberbatch portrays the role of Turing superbly with the detailed expressions and renown stutter captured beautifully in a performance deserved of the highest accolades. Cumberbatch ensures the unintentional humour and occasional arrogance are present throughout the role encapsulated into the timid surroundings of Turing as a person. Kiera Knightly plays the role of Joan Clarke, the only woman to apply for and succeed in being part of Turing’s new team. She shares a special bond with Turing and even goes to the length of agreeing to marry him in order to ensure she could continue working with him. Knightley’s performance is well polished and stable showing signs of strengths throughout the story in a performance born of experience and dedication to her art. Matthew Goode plays the role of Hugh Alexander, a fellow code breaker who doesn’t see eye to eye with Turing at first, but plays a relevant role in the success. Goode withheld the performance of the good-looking, intelligent Alexander with such ease allowing the talent of his work to glow. Other support was strong with the legendary Charles Dance playing the role of Commander Denniston and Mark Strong playing the head of MI6, Stewart Menzies.
The factual elements of Turing’s story and subsequent success are fascinating. The achievements alone that one man could do simply with his mind, but the fact he could take little credit for what he had done is admirable. Despite breaking the enigma code, the job they were doing still had to remain a secret for if the Germans found out it would mean years of work wasted.
You may already be aware of Turing’s achievements and there maybe more you will learn from watching this movie and with the combination of a well told story and strong performances it will be more than just the truth behind the story that will impress.
It is during the opening sequence of American Sniper where we discover the true intensity of the movie. Marine Chris Kyle is positioned at the top of an abandoned building in Iraq, his rifle is positioned and we are looking through the telescopic sight first at an Iraqi soldier and then the attention is drawn to the ground where a mother and her son emerge from a building, the son clutches something to his chest under his jacket as his mother whispers instructions. The boy then sets off running towards Kyle’s fellow American troops and Kyle’s finger is poised on the trigger…
The beauty of Clint Eastwood’s direction is the level of intensity he can produce from a moment such as that, but the true story of Chris Kyle is depicted brilliantly not just through the direction, but through the story and the acting. Eastwood has taken the focus of the story and balanced it between the war in Iraq and a normal life for a soldier returning home, which is anything but. The main part of the movie is in Kyle’s difficulty to separate his home life from the life he risks everyday fighting in the war. His decision to join the marines came to him through his father predominantly. His father would teach him and his brother to stand up to bullies and be strong and this is what exactly, as young men, they chose do. When the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001 this form of ‘bullying’ spurred Kyle on to want to fight and it was soon evident his skills lay in using a rifle.
Chris Kyle had four tours of Iraq and the movie follows each one of them and also the life he shared at home with his wife and children. Like most soldiers returning from active duty, the adjustment to a life at home is difficult with everyday noises drawing dark memories to his life in conflict. In Iraq, Kyle is witness to the brutality of the enemy and an unknown assailant, also useful with a rifle, is his main target. The price on his head from the Iraqi’s is substantial, but the bounty refuses to deter Kyle in his mission to capture Osama Bin Laden’s number two and bring an end to the war.
Bradley Cooper portrays the role of Chris Kyle in a performance that has seen him nominated for an Oscar and understandably so too. Although Cooper performs superbly, I don’t think this is his strongest performance to date. Certainly not in comparison to Silver Linings Playbook in which he was also nominated. Sienna Miller is almost unrecognisable as Kyle’s wife, Taya, in a strong role in which the depiction of her struggles with her life married to a marine is executed superbly with the emotional distress that any woman in her position would go through. It is one of the best roles I have seen her in.
My admiration goes fully to Clint Eastwood. A master in his field both in front of and behind the camera he shows no signs of letting up, even at 84 years of age. The pace and passion of the story is sublime and Eastwood doesn’t hold back for some of the more uncomfortable scenes of life that is happening every single day as our soldiers fight. The drama and intensity are with us throughout the whole movie and supported by a wonderful cast you can see how this has been nominated for best picture at the Oscars. I personally am not sure it has the strength to go on and win, but it is still an exhilarating experience not to be passed up.