By now, Alan Turing's reputation precedes him. As the pioneer of the "Turing machine," what would later be known as the progenitor of modern computers, Turing was enlisted by the British government at the onset of World War II to help decode the German cipher machine that deployed strategic information on the German military's next moves. In Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game, an adaptation of the novel, Alan Turing: The Enigma, we're given a succinct glimpse into the psychosis and emotional complexity of Turing through the lens of Benedict Cumberbatch's in touch-ness with the man who would eventually be eviscerated by the very government he helped save millions of lives.

A man and his computer

A man and his computer

Aloof and annoyingly confident in his interview with Commander Alastair Denniston (Charles Dance), Turing nonetheless manages to finagle his way into the job by mentioning the word "Enigma," the name of the machine the Germans use for all communications that are indecipherable by anyone else. Intrigued by Turing's potential, Denniston hires him, though Turing is markedly disappointed when he learns he has to work with the likes of cryptanalyst and famed chess player, Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode). This prompts Major General Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong, who is always delightfully deadpan) of MI6 to sarcastically note, "Popular in school, were you?" The query segues nicely into Turing's past at an all boys boarding school where he was teased mercilessly and only had one friend (read: love interest) named Christopher (Jack Bannon), after whom Turing eventually names the prototype for his decoding computer.

Like most brilliant people, Turing has difficulty relating to others, particularly those he's forced to work with. Thankfully, Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), one of the only female cryptanalysts in the field, comes to Bletchley Park after Turing gets a promotion from Winston Churchill himself. Unlike most people, Turing is not offput by her sex and sees the potential of her skill as a merit to the team. The two, both something of an anomaly, take an immediate liking to one another, though Clarke initially misinterprets his emotional affection for romantic interest.

Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke

Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke

With the pressure on for Turing to make Christopher work the way he insists it will, Denniston is increasingly eager to fire him. Major General Menzies, on the other hand, can see that Turing's ability to live with lies and secrets will be a great asset to winning the war. Thus, the two collaborate together seamlessly after Turing cracks Enigma without letting on to the Germans that the British are aware of every exchange--much to the ire of Turing's fellow team members, especially one who has a brother riding in a U-2 boat that's about to be blown to pieces. 

Turing and his crew

Turing and his crew

As Cumberbatch portrays Turing in all his phases of struggle and deterioration--particularly at the end of his life after being forced by the government to take hormones to "quell" his homosexuality--we're given a snapshot of a lonely man who turned to computer science not merely because of his brilliance, but because, it seemed, a machine would never judge him with the harshness of a human. Furthermore, Cumberbatch has come a long way in the realm of biopics since his last horrendous performance as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate.