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Posts Tagged ‘Alex Lawther’

Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.
    —    Alan Turing
Codebreaker” (2011)  —  movie review
Codebreaker is a “docu-drama” about the life of Alan Turing, the famous mathematician who lead the team which developed the computer which broke the “Enigma” German code machine back in World War II.  Turing is played by Ed Stoppard.  The “drama” portion of this film is mostly from the journals of Dr. Franz Greenbaum, who was the psychiatrist Turing was forced to see for counseling. Dr. Greenbaum is played by Henry Goodman.
This film was made for TV and was aired in 2011 in the UK under the title: “Britian’s Greatest Codebreaker“.  The title was changed and the film had a limited theatrical release in the US in 2012, so you may find it noted with either year of release.
The documentary portion of the film is interspersed into the drama and features a series of interviews with relatives of both Turing and Greenbaum, a few of Turing’s colleagues / contemporaries and some otherwise famous folks from mathematics and the computer industry.
Of course the “psych” interviews delve into Turing’s childhood, schooling and his homosexuality.  The documentary interviews try to give a lay-person’s explanation of some of Turing’s main computer breakthroughs.  For those who don’t know, Turing is considered one of the creators of both digital computers / computing, and of artificial intelligence (AI).
Turing is reputed to have died from suicide by poisoning.  This film does nothing to explicitly contradict that conclusion, but it offers slim insights into the conspiracy theory that Turing might have been killed off by the British government in the interest of state secrecy.  In any case, some 50 years after the fact, Turing was given a full pardon for his “crime” (indecent acts) as well as a formal apology from the British government.
Final recommendation:  Strong to highly recommended.  Although no where near the “movie” which followed in 2014 (see below) for production value or drama, this made for television movie was just as interesting and probably more informative.  If you are interested in computers, AI or the history surrounding WWII, I think you’ll enjoy this film.
The Imitation Game”  (2014)  —  movie review
This is my third or fourth time viewing this movie and my initial review can be found here.
This movie is based on the book / biography: “Alan Turing: The Enigma” written by Andrew Hodges.  The movie is a dramatized version of “basically” historical events with liberties taken for “drama”.  Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, (Alex Lawther plays a young Alan Turing), Keira Knightley plays Joan Clarke (the female / “love” interest), Allen Leech plays John Cairncross (a Russian agent / collegue of Turing on the project), Rory Kinnear plays Detective Robert Nock, Mark Strong plays Stewart Menzies (the MI6 super-spy), Matthew Goode plays Hugh Alexander (one of the brilliant collegues), Charles Dance plays Commander Denniston (Turing’s commanding officer at Bletchley Park ).  The basic premise is that a brilliant Turing invents a general purpose computer to defeat the Nazi coding machine “Enigma”, thus saving lives by helping to end the war faster.  Their work is performed at Bletchley Park.  Turing (and the team) are successful, but because it is all TopSecret, there is no record of his achievements until much later (several decades) and Turing has committed suicide in the meantime.
The movie (and presumably the book) is based on fact. Turing was a real person; he was brilliant, he did come up with this codebreaking machine.  Also, he was homosexual; he was subject to hormonal “treatment” to “cure” his desires; he did die in 1954.  Beyond that, there are a number of points which are probably better handled in the “Codebreaker” TV movie reviewed above.  To begin with, I don’t believe he was autistic (as is implied in this movie).  I gather he had a mild stutter, but nothing like what is implied in the movie.  He was homosexual, but he was not as closeted as the movie implies.  My understanding is while he was open about it with his friends and colleagues, he was not what would be described as “flaming”.  He was “in love” with Joan Clarke and did propose to her and later break off the engagement.  By “in love” I mean he cared for her deeply, although it appears the relationship was more than Platonic but less than physical.  At any rate, as portrayed in the film, Turing does tell her he is gay and she did appear to not care (in real life) about his sexual preferences.
There are also a number of other factual inconsistencies: the character Hugh Alexander did handle most of the supervisory / administrative duties for the team.  He was not “really” Turing’s supervisor and Turing was uninterested in those duties and most office (and real) politics.  The character John Cairncross may or may not have been a Russian agent.  In either case, he and Turing did not work together and I’ve read it’s unlikely they even met or knew each other.  Finally, Turing was not add odds with Commander Denniston, but it seems there was some issue with funding, a letter was sent to Churchill by the team and Turing’s name was on the letter, but it was from the whole of the team, not just from Turing.
Okay.  So after all that, was the movie any good and did I enjoy it?  Yes and very much so.  I admit I am a fan of both Cumberbatch and Knightley. I also quite like Mark Strong as I see him in more things (the “Kingsman” series is top of this list).  Because I spent a career in computing, I already knew of Turing and some of his accomplishments, so it was nice to see it dramatized and put up on a big screen film.  Final recommendation: (still) highly recommended.  I am a fan of the two leads, the specific (codebreaking / history) and general (computing / WWII) topics are also of personal interest, so I had a natural predisposition to enjoy this film.  But, beyond my personal interests (biases), I do think this was a good film / drama and worth the time of anyone who happens to view it.
For those wondering about the movie’s title…  Turing wrote a paper about computing and artificial intelligence which proposed that if a person sat in front of typing instrument (what we today would call a terminal or workstation) and could type in a series of sentences and questions to “someone” at another workstation using normal language and could not tell the responses came from a machine, then the machine, was in fact, intelligent.  This is the simplified version.  The more complete version had three participants: the human testing / judging, a human responding, and a computer responding.  In this case, the judge had to decide which responder was human and which was the machine.  In some variations, the judge isn’t advised one responder is a machine until after completing several question / response cycles.  Basically, the test was evolving to add a blind control situation: the judge didn’t know there was a test or what was being tested until after the cycles.  I found it interesting that the producers of the movie would try to educate the audience about this aspect of computing and AI even though it had little to do with the premise of the movie, that is, a long-suffering individual genius breaking the German code machine.
As an aside (and final note), the movie shows Turing out running cross-country several times.  What isn’t specified is that he was a world class distance runner who nearly qualified for the British Olympic team in the marathon.  Again, nothing earth shaking, but I found the detail interesting.
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On This Day In:
2018 Until Integrity, Decency, Wisdom, And Humility Return
Just Tell (And Re-tell) The Big Lie Often Enough On Fox News
2017 To Laws, Not Office Or Individuals
Beast / General / Civil
2016 Patronage
2015 For Blogs, Too!
2014 Righteous Anger
2013 An Irish Blessing
2012 But Is It Worth It?
2011 Let Us Start

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X+Y” (2014)  —  movie review, released in the US as “A Brilliant Young Mind” (2015)
Today’s review is for the 2014 / 2015 movie “X+Y“, aka: “A Brilliant Young Mind“.  The movie stars Asa Butterfield as Nathan Ellis (autistic math genius), Rafe Spall as Martin Humphreys (Nathan’s tutor), Sally Hawkins as Julie Ellis (Nathan’s mum), Eddie Marsan as Richard (UK tutor), Jo Yang as Zhang Mei (Nathan’s love interest), Martin McCann as Michael Ellis (Nathan’s dad), Jake Davies as Luke Shelton (mocked math genius), Alex Lawther as Isaac Cooper (mocking math genius), Alexa Davies as Rebecca Dunn (Piano girl / jealous crush).
There is something called the “International Mathematics Olympiad” (IMO) which brings together all of the maths geniuses from around the world to compete on their respective national teams.  It seems China is the historically dominant power at this event.
Nathan is an autistic maths wiz.  The only person he is close with is his dad who dies in a car accident.  The accident makes Nathan even more reclusive / eccentric than he was before.
Nathan’s mum (the fish lady / maid in “The Shape of Water“) is not able to relate with her son and finally gets a piece of relief by shipping him off to compete in the IMO.  Nathan’s tutor (Martin) is himself a “failed” maths prodigy and slowly builds a relationship with Nathan and his mum.  Eddie Marsan plays the UK team manager who’s only concern is for the team to beat the Chinese team. Zhang Mei is Nathan’s “love” interest.  He slowly pries Nathan from his turtle shell.  Martin McCann is Nathan’s dad and is the only one who sees him as special and not weird.  At least that is how Nathan feels.  The final three main characters (Luke, Isaac and Rebecca) are other “kids” on the IMO team who are meant to demonstrate some other levels of autism or to act as a kind of alternative love interest.
Is this movie any good?  Does it say anything about math?  Does it say anything about kids?  Does it say anything about autism?  Yes, a little, nothing new, and I don’t know.
I really enjoyed this movie. I got interested in it a while back when I saw Butterfield in “Ender’s War” and thought I’d look out for any of his other work.  (I’ve seen the previews for this film and the bits and bobs available on YouTube and have been waiting for this movie to become available on cable or on Vudu.)  Now I’ve seen him in two very good roles and it will be interesting to see if he develops into a good adult actor or if he fades.  As with “Ender”, Asa plays the straight role well and the emotional role almost as well.  I don’t really understand autism, so I can’t say how accurately he portrayed the ending transformation.  My gut feeling was it was too Hollywood and not realistic, but that just may be me.
The movie relates math to various aspects of the real world: pattern recognition, music, art, architecture, philosophy and love.  They were not main points of the film though, so if you blink, you may miss a couple of them.
I don’t think this movie says anything original about kids.  Certainly nothing you couldn’t get from a half-dozen other movies starting with “Lord of the Flies”.  Yes, kids are mean and pick on other kids who may be viewed as somehow “different”.
As mentioned above, Nathan is “transformed” at the end of the movie.  I doubt autism is cured on the road to Damascus, so I didn’t care for the resolution / summing up.  It just seemed too tidy for my taste.  Apparently, the movie is based on a real-life person and his reaction to viewing the film was: I am a maths wiz.  I am not a rain man.  For me, to the extent the movie related Nathan’s love for math, I felt it stood on firmer ground.
Final recommendation: very strong to highly. I do have an “unusual” fondness for movies with even the slightest math / science / computing theme, so you have to take this recommendation with the normal grain of salt you take my reviews…   (LOL)  I’m not usually a big fan of hazy / distorted filming to represent the perception of genius, but in this case, it worked pretty well.  I liked the acting, the story and loose correlation of math to music, color, flow and pattern recognition.  I will watch it again in the future.
One final note: I got to see this movie for free!  I joined my local library (re-joined) and they have a pretty interesting selection of movies you can stream just for being a member of the library.  It saved me having to purchase a movie I really wanted to see.  They do limit my viewing to eight per calendar month, but it still seems a great deal to me!  Who knew??
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On This Day In:
2018 And May Never Be
2017 Don’t Forget
2016 I Was A Percentage Man
2015 It Waits Patiently
2014 Unknown
2013 Explaining Love?
2012 Echoes of 1%
2011 Salaam, Egypt!!
Where Do You Learn?

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