May 22, 2015 Leave a comment
Reading the biography that is the source for this movie, my main complaint was that it was too expansive, especially around technical areas. This left it feeling quite dry and drowning out on the more personal or emotional aspects. What hope I had that this film adaptation would actually exceed the source was shaken in the early revelation that it would use a fractured narrative. We jump around from Turing as a child, during his work cracking the Enigma, and as he faces legal sanction near the end of his life. The contrasts are not particularly meaningful and only the scenes during the war are of particular strength. Lost is any sense of progression of his mind and his contributions outside of Enigma are reduced to footnotes. More jarring is the end intertitles making a big point of the tragedy of British repression of homosexuality, but the film doesn’t earn the activism because it fails to even really dive into Turing’s experience of homosexuality. It is just a plot point.
The scenes around the war should probably be considered more fiction than reality as the process here is so muddled and abridged as to feel completely unlike the one detailed in the book. One thing that stood out to me is the centering, in rather dramatic fashion, of the need to not overly exploit the intel lest the Germans catch on. No mention is made of the reality that the Germans were so sure of their code that they repeatedly assumed they were being bested by spies. But some of this license does contribute to the rather more enjoyable sequences, highlighting the strength of some of the central performances. My particular favorite is when they go out to a club to celebrate Alan’s engagement. I was generally amused, due to recognition, by Alan’s reactions to other people reading social cues. The analogy of cryptography in language to how “normal” social cues are to a non-neurotypical person is rather brilliant. Of course, there were a few moments where they pushed the autistic behaviors a little too far. Cumberbatch is certainly solid in the role, but I ultimately was more taken with Knightley here, who continues to prove one of the best (and undervalued in spite a handful of nominations) actresses of the past decade. I just wish these moments added up to a bit more.