Here is what will probably be the last of the Oscar movies that I watch for this year. That brings my total to 4 of 8, and I am okay with that.
During World War II, the Nazis were using a code to transmit their locations and plans to their various U-Boats and other factions. British mathematician Alan Turing is recruited to help work on cracking the ‘enigma’ code. He proves to be exceptionally difficult to work with, but builds a strong team around him, and eventually they crack the code – but then are careful not to reveal that they have cracked it so that the Nazis don’t catch on. Essentially, he invented the computer to run all the codebreaking combinations. He also happened to be a homosexual, which was illegal in England at that time. After the war – since what they had done was so classified, he was not known as a war hero, and was arrested for “gross indecency”. He chose to undergo chemical castration instead of imprisonment so that he could continue working. After a few years of enduring that, he committed suicide at age 41, and was only recently recognized for the amazing work that he did.
This movie is directed by Morten Tyldum, a Norwegian director who has not really done any other English language movies. The story is interesting, but there’s not much of it in the movie. Basically we see the story unfold as Turing tells it to the officer who arrests him. We also get flashbacks to him at school cut throughout. Much of the movie is still – and there’s very little of the war in it. It’s mainly the actors in the room, working on the project. There’s also very little of Turing’s sexuality in the movie, we do see him spend time with Joan Clarke, one of his team members, and they get engaged so that her parents will allow her to continue to work on the project. Aside from a boyhood crush that we see in the school flashbacks, we see no other relationships that Turing had in the movie. It’s an interesting choice, and the writer stated that he wanted the movie to focus on Turing’s accomplishments much less than his personal relationships, and it certainly does that. It's mostly people working on cracking a code in a little room. It’s boring, but it is really well-acted.
- It is absolutely a Benedict Cumberbatch movie, and yes, he certainly was nominated for an Oscar, but this, at least at the beginning, seemed to be a variation on his ‘Sherlock’. He does show quite a range of emotion throughout the movie, and does an amazing job of layering Turing’s true emotions under a hard shell. He’s also amazing at the end when he portrays the broken man Turing has become when Joan comes to visit him after the punishment has been enacted. Cumberbatch is an exceptional actor, and he does a great job in this - he won't win the Oscar for this role, but he will win one eventually.
- Keira Knightly was also nominated for an Oscar, and she also does an amazing job as Joan Clarke. Especially in any of the scenes where they don’t want to let her participate because she’s a chick (Haley Atwell has been doing an exceptional job at that same type of righteous anger on Agent Carter – which you should be watching). Joan proves her worth, and proves to be the one person who can anchor Turing to reality and humanity, even when he’s cruel to her.
- Matthew Goode (Ozymandias, as I always think of him) plays Hugh Alexander, another of the mathematicians. His character is not really developed, he seems to be a bit put out at first because he was in charge of the team before Turing shows up – but once Turing proves himself, he works for him.
- Rory Kinnear plays Detective Robert Nock – the police officer that Turing is telling his story to. He has little to do but convey some sympathy to Turing during his story, but a determination to do his job.
- Allen Leech plays John Cairncross – who (spoiler alert) is actually working with the Russians, but he’s also the only one who is kind to Turing from the start.
- Matthew Beard plays Peter Hilton, who has siblings in the field, and has a powerful moment once they break the code because Turing makes the decision not to tell anyone so that the Nazis do not catch on they have broken the code – but they see an attack coming, and Peter’s brother is on one of the ships that will be lost. He has the ability to contact them and save them, but listens to Turing and so has to live with the knowledge that he could have saved that ship, but did not act on that information to serve the greater good.
- Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) plays Commander Denniston – who hires Turing, but then seems to be looking for a reason to fire him, because he’s difficult.
- Mark Strong is once again amazing as Stewart Menzies – the non-existent man from the non-existent branch of MI6 working with the group. He’s subtle and supportive, and was the most interesting part of this movie for me. But – I may have been staring at his wig, wondering how they attached it.
As I said – it’s exceptionally well done, but it is really boring. It’s an interesting story, and it’s great that it is getting Turing some well-deserved credit, even though it’s long overdue. I can’t help but wonder what else he would have invented if he had not died so young. If you are a history buff, or a Cumberbatch superfan, check it out.
5 out of 10 – well done, just not entertaining. Of course, it's not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be an acting showcase of a true story, and on that level – it was a success.
Bonus Video 1: In case for some reason you are not aware of the BBC Sherlock show - you should Netflix it. It's pretty amazing - but I still prefer Elementary on CBS.
Bonus Video 2: Honestly - I really considered for a very long time what other WWII era movie I really enjoyed so I could put a clip here. Then I tried to think of other Benedict Cumberbatch movies I really enjoyed, then I tried to come up with other Keira Knightly movies...the only thing I came up with this - Captain America: the First Avenger. Hey - we all have our own tastes:
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews: