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Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain's top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. Written by
There have been numerous articles and books written about the Enigma code breach. However, the role that the Polish cryptologists had played in it was often omitted in earlier works. An example of this was seen in 1974, when F. W. Winterbotham published a book titled "The Ultra Secret," where he claimed that the British were the first to break this cipher. The distinction actually belongs to the Poles, who accomplished that feat, albeit on an earlier version of the Enigma than the one used in WWII, in the 1930s. Their efforts, their transferral of the knowledge they had gained in the cracking, and the later efforts of Turing and the British, are for instance detailed in Simon Singh's "The Code Book" from 1999. Whereas Britain in pre-WWII times still used linguists to break codes, the Poles had understood that it was necessary to use mathematics to look for patterns. They had then taken a further step by building electro-mechanical machines to search for solutions (known as "bombas," perhaps because of the ticking noise they made). These devices simulated the workings of an Enigma machine, and enabled operators to search for the settings of the Enigma that had encoded the message, by cycling through one possible setting after another. This worked until the Germans increased the sophistication of the machine. See more »
Turning lists the Ardennes as one of the battle influenced by Enigma. In actuality that battle opened as a surprise to the Allies because the Germans did not use Enigma to transmit orders for that battle, but relied on telephone communications which could not be tracked at the time. See more »
Are you paying attention? Good. If you're not listening carefully you will miss things. Important things. I will not pause, I will not repeat myself, and you will not interrupt me. If you think that because you're sitting where you are and I am sitting where I am that you are in control of what is about to happen, you 're mistaken. I am in control, because I know things that you do not know.
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As the film announces at the start, it based on a true story. The essentials are true, and to get so much history into a film things have to be condensed. Unfortunately unnecessarily inaccurate things were portrayed which didn't save any time. For example, Turing mutters under his breath so most audiences will not notice, that the Poles made the first crucial breakthrough. By the start of the war, the Poles led by Marian Rejewski had been breaking Enigma for over six years and built the first machine, called a "bomba" in 1938.
In July 1939 the Poles passed on all the information to the French and British including details of the bomba and their successes at a meeting which included Denniston. The problem started to mount for the Poles and later the British when other rotors could be swapped in and the indicator method was changed by the Germans. The film is correct in showing that Turing's genius was using known words from the coded messages to reduce the myriad of possibilities. This idea happened in 1939 and so he started from the outset to design the British "bombes" to use this method, not after they had been running for months.
Four senior code-breakers, not just Alan Turing, but also Gordon Welchman, Stuart Milner-Barry and Hugh Alexander wrote to Churchill in 1941 over Denniston's head about the shortage of staff and praising Edward Travis. In February 1942, Denniston was demoted and transferred elsewhere. His successor, Edward Travis, transformed the procedures.
Cairncross, played by Downton's ex-chauffeur, never appeared at Bletchley until 1942 and the alleged blackmail is an unnecessary red-herring.
The idea that there would be a chart on the wall in Hut 8 showing the latest positions of all Atlantic convoys is laughable. This chart was in a secure bunker in Liverpool that was as closely guarded as Bletchley Park.
Turing's team had no input into how the information was to be used, but it is true that Ultra intelligence had to be supported by other information and so patrols were sent out to find what was known to be already there.
Lastly Turing would never, ever, have disclosed even the existence of Bletchley Park to a detective he had just met.
The performance of Benedict Comberbatch is exceptional, and the rest of the cast good. Keira Knightley is pretty enough to have turned even Turing, but, despite the lines that told us, she never gave the impression she had a double first in mathematics from Cambridge.
Good film, though it could have be closer to reality without making it longer or more complex.
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