Hi! This 2014 film (and 2015 Best Adapted Screenplay winner) tells the story of Alan Turing, the man who invented the world’s first computer, which gave Britain an edge in World War 2. The film uses a biopic format to explore themes of human connection, logic, empathy, and loneliness.
One of the interesting things about the movie is how it addresses Turing’s homosexuality. The film doesn’t shy away from the topic, but also manages to avoid exploiting it. It is about “the computer genius who happened to be gay” rather than “the gay computer genius.” The movie is rated PG13 and only certain dialogue is somewhat suggestive-there is zero nudity or other sexually explicit content. One of the most endearing subplots is Turing’s relationship to his school friend Christopher Morcom. In both the movie and history, Morcom dies young, before any boundaries are pushed, but seeing the youthful unsure Turing being so influenced by this relationship allows us to better understand the adult eccentric Turing.
Casting Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing is the single best decision the producers made. Cumberbatch rose to fame for his portrayal of the title character in BBC’s Sherlock and the similarities of the two roles are uncanny. Both are seen as narcissists with difficulty socializing and both are geniuses whose gift is a blessing and a curse. Frankly the only substantial difference is that one is entirely fictional.
In addition to portraying Turing’s homosexuality, the film also indirectly addresses his possible autism. To my knowledge, there was no terminology or public concept of autism in 1940s Britain, but a few of Turing’s particular outbursts and patterns strongly indicate he was on the spectrum. Whether this film is positive or negative representation isn’t necessarily my place to say, but I was pleased that it was included in the story.
Cumberbatch’s acting is stellar throughout the entire movie, but twice he makes this very peculiar facial expression that grips me. Twice this is displayed, once when all of his hard work is nearly undone and again when all of his work pays off. The expression conveys laughing and crying simultaneously, an event that very well could happen in a real situation but would be very difficult to contrive or force. Cumberbatch’s authenticity and vulnerability in these scenes, along with many others, is a testament to his incredible acting abilities.
One of the key characters in the story is Joan Clarke, Turing’s associate in codebreaking and his eventual fiancée. The film takes a lovely feminist lens to Joan Clarke without taking the primary focus off Turing. Exactly one hour in, Sherlock-excuse me, Alan-proposes to Joan, for the sole purpose of pleasing her parents and allowing her to keep her job. The entire scene is pretty much just comic relief, and one of the best examples of where Benedict blends the two roles. The entire dynamic between Joan and Alan can be summed up as “almost romantic”, a strong connection of mutual respect and admiration. However Joan is more than comic relief or a hetero love interest, she is a trailblazer in her field who won’t tolerate misogynistic BS. One of the best thing Joan says, when Alan asks why she befriends his coworkers, is “I’m a woman in a man’s job, I don’t have the luxury of being an ass”. She is well-recognized for her pivotal role in
The other standout doesn’t get much screen time but he brings the absolute best to his one spotlight scene. After the men crack Enigma, they must walk a fine line between using the advantage without letting Germany know they have it. As a result they decide not to act on intelligence that would prevent a certain attack. One of the codebreakers, Peter (Matthew Beard), has a very particular desire to stop the attack. This clash between logic and empathy is one of the crystallizing moments of the film, and it encourages viewers to consider what they would do in this predicament and what that says about them.
Overall this is a lovely “artistic essay”, portraying the true tragedy of a man whose ostracism outweighed his genius and contributions. 10/10 for stellar cast, perfect plot pacing, and strong characters. Recommended for people over age 15 who are fans of Cumberbatch or Turing or period pieces.