The Imitation Game:
a movie about the Enigma Machine, Alan Turing and the Bletchley Park code-breakers
Alan Turing did NOT invent the Colossus machine,nor despite the claims of "The Imitation Game", the "Bombe" device featured so prominently in the movie and shown in the above scene.
The Imitation Game, the latest movie based on World War II's Enigma machine is the first to acknowledge Alan Turing's crucial role.
The Enigma machine was originally a commercial German encoding apparatus developed after World War I. It resembled a typewriter, but
used complicated sets of rotors, to change the letters or combinations of letters in a message or document into what seemed to be randomly selected substitutes. The rotors produced billions of possible combinations for the original message. A recipient with another Enigma machine used a key to unlock the code. During the 1920s and 1930s the German military transformed this commercial encoding device into an incredibly sophisticated encoding system to transmit top-secret orders and messages to German military units on land and sea. However, the Germans were unaware that Poland's Cipher Bureau, with its team of brilliant mathematicians and cryptologists, had not only unlocked secrets of the Enigma Machine's encoding method. They had also made copies of the machine.
The significance of the 'Enigma Machine', and the unlocking of its secrets by a team of cryptological and mathematical geniuses at the top secret English location of Bletchley Park remained unknown and unheralded for many years after the end of the war. In the last couple of decades,the general public has become aware of the crucial role that Bletchley Park (and in particular the mathematician Alan Turing) played in unravelling Germany's military secrets and helping win the war. The main target of the Bletchley team was not the German's original so-called 'Enigma' cipher but the more technologically sophisticated version code-named 'Tunny' by the British. Many documentaries have been made about Enigma, Bletchley Park and Turing. Yet despite the controversial conflicts, issues and personalities surrounding the topic, before 2014's release of The Imitation Game, only two feature films have been based on this richly dramatic subject.
The latest attempt, The Imitation Game, is the first to feature the work of Alan Turing, the English mathematical genius and pioneer of artificial intelligence. The movie focuses on Turing's attempts to break the secret of Enigma while at the same time trying to conceal the secret of his sexual identity.However, The Imitation Game is very misleading - or downright inaccurate - about several key issues. Turing and the team at Bletchley was not the first to break the Enigma code; that had been done years before by the Polish Cipher Bureau. And the imposing machine that is a central feature of the movie and which is supposed to have broken the key German naval code was not designed by Turing nor was it built at Bletchley. Nor was Turing ever blackmailed by a Soviet spy working alongside Turing's Bletchley team.
THREE EARLIER MOVIES ABOUT THE ENIGMA MACHINE
The first of these was an American war movie,U-571, released in 2000, about a U.S. submarine trying to capture an Enigma machine from a German U-boat. Briskly directed and well paced by Jonathan Mostow ( Terminator 3 and Surrogates), a good script from David Ayer, future director of Training Day and Fury. The movie had excellent technical values (it won an Oscar for best sound), finely detailed submarine sets and is throughly entertaining.The scenes inside the U-Boat are convincingly claustrophic, and the seaborne operation to seize the submarine's Enigma is detailed andexciting, culminating in a tense and convincing climax.Dr.Lawrence Suid,an academic historian of naval warfare has praisedU-571as "probably the most exciting submarine movie ever made."
Although U-571 received good reviews and a good box-office reception in the USA,
it was viciously received by many naval veterans and journalists in the United Kingdom , who derisively pointed out that in fact British naval units , not American, were the first to capture an intact Enigma machine from from a U-Boat in 1941. (HMS Bulldog forced U-110 to the surface , the German crew abandoned her, believing it was sinking, and a British boarding party entered the submarine, taking the Enigma and German naval codes.) In fact, the final seconds of the film include an acknowledgement that the captruing of the Enigma machine and its codebooks from a German submarine had been achieved earlier by a British naval expedition.
So heated did the argument become that the British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed with a questioner in the House of Commons that the film was "an affront" to British sailors. President Clinton tried to calm things down by writing a letter declaring that the movie was fiction, not history. In the midst of the uproar, Davbid Balme, the British naval officer who courageously led the boarding party that seized the Enigma from the abandoned and presumably sinking U-110, called the movie "a great film." However, six years after the film was made its writer, David Ayer, declared that he "did not feel good" about the movie'sdepiction of Americans, not British, obtaining the Enigma machine in the way shown in the film."It was a distortion."
The Allies captured a total fifteen Enigma machines from U-boats during the war. All but two were seized by British units. The Royal Canadian Navy captured one and the American navy took over a Machine from U-Boat (U-505), in 1944. This episode seized the submarine and its crew intact as well. In fact, you can see U-505, a magnificent vessel, on display today at the Chicago Museum of Science and Technology.
This movie has an interesting pedigree. It was co-produced by Mick Jagger, [Jagged Films] who apparently owns an Enigma machine and lent it for some scenes in the movie. The script is adapted from Robert Harris'sfirst-rate historical thriller byby the great British playwright Tom Stoppard and it is directed by the reliable and talented Michael Apted. Plus the music is by the great John Barry and its stars Kate Winslet in one of her best performances. It's a pity that her acting talents and those of co-star Jeremy Northam are offset by a listless and unconvincing Dougray Scott as the ostensible hero. One of the movie's most attractive features is the way it evokes John Buchan's classic spy thrillers and class ic Hitchock thrillers of the 1930s. The movie has been criticised because although it's based on the Bletchley park and decoding the Engma encryption, there is no mention of the crucial role played b y Alan Turing. (Although the movie offers some hints: Dougray Scott's character is an emotionally tormented figure recovering from a breakdown.
Although Enigma is about World War 2, especially the Battle of the Atlantic, and the attempts to counteract the Germans by breaking their Enigma codes, the strongest part of the movie focuses on the fictional tensions and intrigues amongst the team at Bletchley Park, where the team has to not only uncover the secrets of Enigma but also try to unmask a possible German spy in their midst as well as investigating the mysterious disappearance of a beautiful female code-breaker who has besotted Tom, the genius mathematician hero [Dougray Scott]. To complicate matters, Tom has to crack the german naval code in order to prevent the destruction of a vital Allied convoy. The film is invigorated by Kate Winslet's character, Hester: dynamic, a bit dowdy, intelligent, and in love with Tom. For the most part, the two halves of the plot - breaking the code and finding the presumed traitor at Bletchley - mesh smoothly until an awkward and rushed conclusion.
An interesting aspect of the movie is that it includes scenes depicting the infamous Katyn Forest massacre (near Smolensk, Russia) of 1940, where over 4000 Polish military officers were executed by Russian NKVD units on Stalin's orders. This scene which is pivotal to the plot and is part of the climax of Harris's novel, is awkwardly placed near the movie's beginning.
However, Enigma ignores the crucial role of Poland's Biuro Szyfrow (Cipher Bureau). Polish codebreakers had not only worked out how the Enigma machine functioned years before Bletchley Park. They had made their own copies of the machine and sent two to Britain when the Nazis Poland invaded Poland as well as vital decoded German transcripts. Yet for decades the Polish contribution - which saved the Bletchley codebreakers years of work - was ignored by Britain.
Kate Winslett is impressive as a determined Bletchley Park team member dedicated to finding out what happened to a missing colleague and to help the object of her affections crack the German naval code. Although her character is fictional, in fact women were a vital part of the Park's work force. Most were employed in administrative, transcriptive and secretarial functions, but some, like Joan Clarke and Marion Body, worked alongside Alan Turing and other top decoders.
One of the administrative staff was Valerie Glassborow, the grandmother of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, who had a tedious job in Hut 16 - she and others monitored British listening stations to see that they were sending in regular reports of German radio activity.
Above centre, Valerie Glassborow, the Duchess of Cambridge's grandmother in her uniform. Image at left shows the Duchess operating a replica of a listening device at Bletchley park; image right shows her talking to Lady Marion Body, one of the talented women cryptologists who worked at Bletchley.
Excellent documentary about the Enigma machine and Bletchley Park
All the Queen's Men (2001)
Both U-571 and Enigma are, in their different ways, thoroughly entertaining and well-made movies. The same cannot be said about the British filmAll the Queen's Men, made about the same time as these two films. Roger Ebert deservedly assigned to his list of the worst films he had seen in his book Your Movie Sucks. It's a comedy that also tries to be an action movie, but is neither funny nor exciting. In addition, it contains some of the clumsiest acting ever witnessed - hardly surprising, seeing that its leads are Matt LeBlanc and Eddie Izzard. You have been warned.
So what is this disaster of a movie's connection with the Enigma machine? Its plot concerns the efforts of British army unit sent undercover to snatch an Enigma machine from the French factory which makes the devices. The factory is staffed only by French women (the French male workers are unavailable because they're either underground or have been sent as cheap labour to Germany). So the four soldiers dress as women to get into the factory . Unknown to them, they are expected to fail and fall into German hands, thereby convincing the Nazis that the Allies don't have a copy of the Enigma, which they actually do. Did I mention that at one stage they are mincing about Berlin? Or that they stage a drag routine before an audience of appreciative Nazis?
The film assumes that the audience will find the sight of four soldiers in drag trying to con Nazi to be incredibly funny. But unless the actors and the directer are talented and working from a good script (Some Like It Hot), the set-up will quickly become tedious and repetitive. This is the fate of All the Queen's Men.
- The Imitation Game (2014) PG-13 | 114 min | Biography, Drama, Thriller. ...
- Valkyrie (2008) PG-13 | 121 min | Drama, History, Thriller. ...
- The Oxford Murders (2008) ...
- U-571 (2000) ...
- Enigma (2001) ...
- BloodRayne: The Third Reich (2011) ...
- Enigma (1982) ...
- In Enemy Hands (2004)
Many documentaries have been made about Enigma, Bletchley Park and Turing. Yet despite the controversial conflicts, issues and personalities surrounding the topic, before 2014's release of The Imitation Game, only two feature films have been based on this richly dramatic subject.How many movies are there about Alan Turing? ›
Two movies about Alan Turing | Rick's Ramblings.Which movie was about the Bletchley Park codebreakers? ›
Enigma is a 2001 espionage thriller film directed by Michael Apted from a screenplay by Tom Stoppard. The script was adapted from the 1995 novel Enigma by Robert Harris, about the Enigma codebreakers of Bletchley Park in the Second World War.What is the Enigma film called? ›
The Imitation Game is a 2014 American historical drama film directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Graham Moore, based on the 1983 biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.Who broke Enigma first? ›
The Enigma code was first broken by the Poles, under the leadership of mathematician Marian Rejewski, in the early 1930s. In 1939, with the growing likelihood of a German invasion, the Poles turned their information over to the British, who set up a secret code-breaking group known as Ultra, under mathematician Alan M.Who solved the Enigma code movie? ›
“The Imitation Game,” a new biopic about the British mathematician who led the successful efforts to break the Nazis' Enigma code, opens Friday.How long did it take for Alan Turing to break Enigma? ›
Using AI processes across 2,000 DigitalOcean servers, engineers at Enigma Pattern accomplished in 13 minutes what took Alan Turing years to do—and at a cost of just $7.Did Alan Turing break the Enigma code? ›
As early as 1943 Turing's machines were cracking a staggering total of 84,000 Enigma messages each month - two messages every minute. Turing personally broke the form of Enigma that was used by the U-boats preying on the North Atlantic merchant convoys. It was a crucial contribution.Who invented the Enigma machine? ›
Similar machines were first made in the early 20th century, and the first 'Enigma' was invented by German engineer Arthur Scherbius in 1918, who sought to sell it for commercial, rather than military, purposes.
Currently you are able to watch "Enigma" streaming on Amazon Prime Video, BritBox, BritBox Amazon Channel, Virgin TV Go, Icon Film Amazon Channel or for free with ads on Freevee Amazon Channel, Pluto TV.How many lives did Alan Turing save? ›
It is estimated that Turing's work shortened the war by two years and saved 14 million lives.Was Alan Turing's machine called Christopher? ›
Did Alan Turing's codebreaking machine look like the one in the movie? Alan Turing's real Bombe machine (top) at Bletchley Park in 1943. The machine's name was changed to Christopher for the movie (bottom) and more red cables were added to mimic veins pumping blood through the machine.Was The Rose Code true? ›
Is the Rose Code based on a true story? Kate Quinn shared one of her experiences while writing the Rose code novel. Quinn explained that the novel was based on real-life women involved in Bletchley park; many of the characters were real people, but the story was fiction.Is The Bletchley Circle on Netflix? ›
Watch The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco | Netflix.Is there a movie based on The Rose Code? ›
Bletchley Park Code Breaker Novel 'The Rose Code' By Kate Quinn Being Adapted For TV By Black Bear Pictures. Exclusive: Black Bear Pictures, the team behind Benedict Cumberbatch feature film The Imitation Game, is heading back to Bletchley Park – this time for the small screen.How long would it take to crack Enigma today? ›
A young man named Alan Turing designed a machine called a Bombe, judged by many to be the foundation of modern computing. What might take a mathematician years to complete by hand, took the Bombe just 15 hours. (Modern computers would be able to crack the code in several minutes).How much is an Enigma machine worth? ›
At the heart of all this was the Enigma machine, a cipher device that enabled Nazi forces to communicate in what was thought to be perfect secrecy. One of the rarest of Enigma machines, with less than 100 thought to exist, has just been sold in an online auction by Christie's for $440,000 (£347,250).Why was the Enigma code so hard to crack? ›
The thing that made Enigma so hard to crack with contemporary means was that the settings changed with each keystroke. If you were to sit down at an Enigma machine right now and press the “A” key three times, you would get a different scrambled letter every time.Did Poland break the Enigma code? ›
Bletchley Park is to celebrate the work of three Polish mathematicians who cracked the German Enigma code in World War II. Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Różycki will be remembered in a talk on Sunday at the park's annual Polish Day.
There are known to be about 300 Enigma machines left in museums and private collections around the world, although the exact number of surviving Enigma machines is unknown, and it's suspected that there are a few more 'hiding'.Did cracking Enigma win the war? ›
Road Trip 2011: Code breakers led by Alan Turing were able to beat the Germans at their cipher games, and in the process shorten the war by as much as two years. At Bletchley Park, all the work took place in secret, where it stayed for decades.Is the Enigma machine still used today? ›
Now, there are only about 250 WWII-era Enigma machines left.What did Winston Churchill say about Alan Turing? ›
Winston Churchill said that Alan Turing made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war against Nazi Germany. Alan Turing (1912-1954) was a brilliant mathematician and a founder of computer science.Who broke the Enigma code ww2? ›
Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician. Born in London in 1912, he studied at both Cambridge and Princeton universities. He was already working part-time for the British Government's Code and Cypher School before the Second World War broke out.Was Alan Turing a genius? ›
Turing was a brilliant mathematician, before he'd even earned a Master's Degree he wrote probably the second-most-important academic paper of the 20th century – second only to Albert Einstein's paper on General Relativity.Is the Enigma code real? ›
However, the central conceit of The Imitation Game—that Turing singlehandedly invented and physically built the machine that broke the Germans' Enigma code—is simply untrue.Is Tom Jericho a real person? ›
Thomas Jericho is loosely based on real-life mathematician and code-breaker Alan Turing (1912-1954).How long is the film Enigma? › Where was the film Enigma filmed? ›
Because Bletchley Park is a busy, working site, no filming took place there, but at nearby Chicheley Hall at Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire.