DIRECTOR: Morten Tyldum
NOT A PART OF OUR COLLECTION
May Contain Spoilers!
Will we be adding this to our collection? MAYBE
Oscar bait. Sorry, maybe not the best way to start a review but this is what is, pure and simple. That is not to say that this is a bad film because it is not but it also is not anything more than what I would expect to find on Television at 9:00pm on a Sunday night. This highly inaccurate and almost fictional drama charts the project led by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park to crack the Enigma Code during World War Two and the invention of the prototype computer to complete his task.
Or was it about the troubled soul who had to confront his demons in order to break down so many obstacles along the way to cracking this code and saving up to 14 million lives? At times, presenting a character who would be more at home on U.S. sitcom The Big Bang Theory; Sheldon Cooper anyone?
Or was it that he was a homosexual who in the 1950’s, after playing such a crucial role during the war effort and supposedly inventing the computer single-handedly might I add, was convicted of indecency, the term used to persecute homosexual men in England during that time and after opting for a drug therapy known as “Chemical Castration” rather than a two-year prison sentence, he took his own life year later in 1954.
To start with, whilst the framework is true, the story has been heavily perverted in favour of portraying Turing as a lost soul fighting the good fight, single-handedly inviting and creating modern science to help the Allies bring down the Nazis, whilst dealing with his homosexuality and his complete social ineptness in the process. This is simply not true. For a full and extensive list of the inaccuracies in this film simply Google them, but it is clear that this film was so intent on creating a British propaganda story that it has lost sight of its own integrity and possibly, even its own sense of decency.
Casting characters in a bad light, omitting others and manipulating those which it included, this is designed to tick all the right boxes required to win Oscars, BAFTA’s and any and every other award available this season. Because of this, it not can not decide which track to take, so it tries to do all three and this is where the film continues to let itself down and becomes muddled. I work at The University Of Manchester where Alan Turing spent his latter years so I am well aware of his legacy, certainly at this institution.
As you would expect, this film is packed with strong performances but they were dropped into a screenplay which could not decide where the focus was and the cynic within me suspects that this was a deliberate attempt to offer the award juries as many treats as possible, basically the snob equivalent of a crass blockbuster throwing as much action, sex and explosions at the screen in order to put bums on seats. The polar opposite of Michael Bay’s Transformers series perhaps?
But here, I feel that with a bit more focus on any one of these plot lines, the other two could have easily have fallen into place. The film obviously plays into the secret battles taking place in WW2 and this, along with Enigma is interesting enough in its own right, so is the controversial plot surrounding the horrendous civil rights abuses which were taking place during England at this time. Though it is important to remember that the world was a different place, though it is refreshing to see that this battle is along way towards being won by 2015, this, what is now seen as aberrant behaviour, was acceptable back in the 1950’s.
The odd nature of Turing, his antisocial character is well-played and Benedict Cumberbatch, who is as brilliant as ever but he is an actor who is running the danger of becoming so consistently good that his becomes a bit dull, as has happened to Denzel Washington, as we expect excellence they deliver every time, it becomes difficult to identify their best performances.
Overall, this is a solid film but not particularly theatrical and when it tries to leave the labs and school rooms and show us the war itself, it feels forced and may I say, cheap. But it does tell a set of interesting stories, but as it is trying to tell three at once, they all lose something in the confused process. Also, the myriad of contrivances and historical inaccuracies make this, as has happened to almost every film which has tried to tackle Enigma on-screen (U-571 (1999), Enigma (2000), to be a token gesture to the work of these real-life heroes.