Lively direction and superb performances paper over the cracks in Morten Tyldum’s engaging account of Alan Turing cracking the Nazi’s Enigma code and suffering an appalling legitimised persecution after the war; a national hero defeating Hitler but powerless against fascism Manchester police style, with British pride and shame wrapped into one.
And Tyldum’s parallel editing makes the most of the binary opposites, depicting both episodes side by side with some familiar tropes and clichés thrown in for good measure; brilliant award season bait – and many observers have already bitten – but not so good for the film’s long term endurance.
Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly cast as the outsider ‘odd duck’ mathematical genius brought into the inside at Bletchley Park by a reluctant old school Commander intolerant of his social foibles, falling somewhere between arrogance and autism in a Cumberbatchian Sherlock way.
But sometimes the most unlikely do the unimaginable, the film’s patronising slogan/script motif tells us – it even grates first time – and Turing arguably did more than anybody to win the war, not only decoding global encrypted commands from Nazi HQ but calculating a formula for determining how much of the intelligence the Brits could use safely without giving the game away; all via his new machine, a general purpose computer prototype.
He received invaluable support from Joan Clarke, who defies the period’s inherent sexism doing something herself that the army couldn’t imagine, and thanks to a committed performance from an excellent Keira Knightley, some of the film’s best moments explore a platonic love with it being barely mentioned.
A more serious prejudice sees Turing convicted of ‘gross indecency’, an euphemism for homosexuality, and suffering an horrific chemical castration, which, as it turned out, was something that made his life unbearable in the saddest and most literal sense.
Apart from some well handled flashbacks to Turing’s schooldays with Alex Lawther catching the eye as the young genius, we see little of his secret life, which is pity and smacks of commercial intervention.
And we could have done without an unnecessary ‘fifth’ Soviet spy sub-plot and an even more contrived melodramatic set up with Turing’s colleague having a brother on board a ship that Turing chose not to save.
That said, this is a very watchable film where, for the most part, the flaws are more a matter for later reflection.
While clearly not audiophile gather more at $149, they sound very good – and the lack of any leash makes them very comfortable