Code-breaker: Rebel Genius

DATELINE:  Einstein of Computers   

 real Turing

Alan Turing, age 14.

The inspiration for the movie with Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, entitled The Imitation Game, was a small British documentary called Codebreaker back in 2011.

The term “codebreaker” refers to two distinct segments of Turing’s life. He was a war hero who invented computers in the early 1940s and broke the German Nazi secret code.

Later in his life, he broke the social morays of staid British sexuality with his gay lifestyle.

Some dim-bulbs on IMdB have criticized the film for forcing them to endure his terrible, tragic second half of life, that included sex scandal, arrest, and chemical castration by the government he worked assiduously to save.

The film is also strengthened by the performers who re-enact Turing and his psychiatrist, Franz Greenbaum. With many moments of fraught faces, we have a definitive portrait of anguish.

Ed Stoppard and Henry Goodman give masterful performances. They regard each other perfectly as patient and doctor, later as friends. Goodman’s paternal father figure looks with pain upon Stoppard’s victim of cruel treatment.

Their looks make the re-enacting of Greenbaum’s medical journals quite compelling.

The film is fleshed out with interviews from Greenbaum’s now elderly daughters who knew Turing and his coworkers in breaking the Nazi code.

What you have here is a powerful indictment of how governments abuse and use people ruthlessly. In many ways this documentary is far more fascinating than the tale of the man who invented computers in the Imitation Game.

Broken Code and Broken Heart


With the docudrama about the life of Alan Turing starring Benedict Cumberbatch planned for release soon, we broke down and decided to watch this British documentary on the life of the man as a head start. Actor Ed Stoppard is the re-enactor who plays Turing in 2011’s Codebreaker.

If you don’t know, Alan Turing helped break the Nazi code during World War II and probably saved countless lives. He described personal computers in 1936, was the ultimate number cruncher, and was treated abysmally by his homeland.

Turing was a genius, but one of those harmless eccentrics in his personal life. He was pleasant and nice, which gets you nowhere in life. He was also gay.

After the war, he never received any accolades. In fact, the British government kept his work classified and feared he would go public. So, when police “caught” him in an illegal gay relationship, he was doomed.

Now Turing was not involved in any sordid sex crimes, did not stalk children, or doing anything reprehensible. He was arrested for entertaining an overnight guest—and admitting to it.

For that he was found guilty and sentenced to chemical castration, essentially treated the same way the Nazis treated people. He was sentenced to a punishment that was what he fought against in the war. Never mind that he was working on genetic codes in 1950 about sixty years before everyone else.

Turing was brilliant, but he was not appreciated by his society to say the least. This is the sort of documentary that is brilliant—and leaves you gasping with indignation and outrage. It also makes you lament how nice people can be so cruelly treated.

Oh, yes, the British government apologized in 2009 for what they did to Turing.