Sunday, May 25, 2014

Reel People: Benedict Cumberbatch is Alan Turing

The film is The Imitation Game, which is directed by Morten Tyldum. This is the first feature length screenplay by Graham Moore and is based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.

Alan Turing

Alan Mathison Turing was born June 23, 1912 in London, England, the second son of Julius Turing a member of the Indian Civil Service. Early on in his childhood, Alan was identified to be a genius by both his parents and teachers. He was observed to be atypically astute at mathematics and science.

As a student, he developed a close friendship with a peer named Christopher Morcom. Morcom died in 1930 of bovine tuberculosis, and the event caused Turing to become an atheist.

In 1931 Turing began studying at King's College, Cambridge. And by the age of 22 had been elected a fellow at King's College. His studies largely were based on computation and arithmetic-based formula language, which would form the basis for the devices later known as Turing  machines.

When WWII broke out, Turing shifted efforts and became involved with the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS). Here Turing was largely involved in breaking the code of the Third Reich's principal crypto-system done on the Enigma Machine. During this time one of the primary accomplishments was Turing provided much of the original thought involved in the creation of the Bombe machine that would be used to break the naval Enigma.

Following the war in 1945 Turing worked on the design of the ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) at the National Physical Laboratory, which became the first design for the stored-program computer.

In 1948 he was appointed Reader in the Mathematics Department at the University of Manchester, and then in 1949 the Deputy Director of the Computing Laboratory. Also at this time he was writing papers on artificial intelligence, developed what became known as the Turing test to assess between human and artificial intelligence,  and designing a computer Chess program with a colleague for a computer that did not yet exist.

He also developed the decomposition method used for solving matrix equations.

In 1952 he shifted his studies towards biological mathematics.

During this same time he also began a homosexual relationship with Arnold Murray, a  19-year-old unemployed man. After Turing's home was burglarized in 1952 by an acquaintance of Murray, Turing went to the police and in that time disclosed his relationship with Murray. Homosexual acts were illegal in the United Kingdom at that time and both Turing and Murray were both charged with gross indecency. Turing pled guilty and was given the choice of imprisonment or hormone therapy.  Turing chose the therapy. The conviction also led the to the removal of his security clearance and limitations to his ability to travel, including to the United States.

On June 8, 1954 Turing dyed of cyanide poising and although not fully investigated, it was believed he committed suicide by poising an apple that was found lying beside his bed. Although alternative theories exist that would not be suicidal, such as fumes from a gold electroplating apparatus that used cyanide in a spare room in his home.

He was cremated on June 12, 1954 at the Woking Crematorium.

The Imitation Game

The film the imitation game focuses on Turing's work in WWII to crack the Enigma code, and was a popular script with a bidding war between many studios. The film, which will be distributed by The Weinstein Company in the United States and Studio Canal in the United Kingdom.

In addition to Benedict Cumberbatch playing Alan Turing the film will also feature Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke another code breaker for GC&CS at Bletchley Park during WWII. Clarke and Turing had a relationship and short lived engagement in 1941.

Also featured are Matthew Goode as cryptanalyst and chess champion Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander; Charles Dance as head of of the GC&CS, Commander Alexander Guthrie Dennison; and Mark Strong as Stewart Menzies, Chief of MI6 during WWII.

Benedict Cumberbatch has been very active in TV and film the past couple years but has never been nominated for an Oscar, can playing this WWII code-break earn him an Oscar nomination, maybe even a win, for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

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