Tuesday 16 December 2014


(Morten Tyldum, 2014)

A film where the subject is so intriguing that despite a somewhat bungled execution, the final product is still engrossing and utterly watchable.
A biopic of sorts, focusing on Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch, excellent but operating well within his comfort zone of twitchy aspergers sufferers) during the years of WW2 when he worked at Bletchley Park attempting to break the Enigma code. The film goes into a fair amount of detail about exactly what was involved in that process - Turing's attempts to create a computer which would be able to process quickly enough to work out the code vs his colleagues more old-fashioned efforts at cryptography - while also highlighting his social unease and habit of irritating everyone around him with his superiority and inability to understand basic politeness.
There is a framing device - Turing's arrest in 1950s Manchester for homosexual acts, which would lead to hormone therapy and his eventual suicide - and also a series of flashbacks to a key relationship with his first love at boarding school, and a voiceover which it transpires is Turing telling his story to a police detective, making it all feel a little overstuffed.
There are nice distractions - Keira Knightley is good as Joan Clarke, a colleague and fleeting fiancé, while Mark Strong and Charles Dance are both perfectly cast as Government suits, as is Matthew Goode as the perfect opposite of Turing (charming, smooth, at ease with himself) with whom he must learn to co-exist. It is handsome, has a few nice gags, and is an interesting study in how some of the elements which make Hollywood dramas and biopics so dreadfully predictable and cringeworthy can also be the moments that work, the scenes that move you. The potency of cheap, easy drama, as it were. The eureka moment, for example. The scene where Turing learns of the death of his schoolboy crush. His hamfisted proposal to Joan, and their bitter split.
Jostling alongside all of this are a few interesting ideas about intelligence and responsibility, chief among them perhaps the notion that it is right and in the best interest of all that scientists make decisions for the rest of us about life and death, based purely upon statistics. This is the great fear and paranoia upon which a million sci-fi stories have been based: that the scientists think they know better than us, the bovine herds living oblivious to the way the world works, and that they will ultimately make a decision which will kill or save us all.

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