By Matt Jorgensen
This prestigious biopic serves as one of Benedict Cumberbatch’s best performances of his career. The film is not only a look into the long unknown story behind the Allies’ strategy in World War II, but an exhibit of raw emotion.
Since the very beginning, the audience is indirectly demanded to “pay attention” by Alan Turing, the mathematician behind the cracking of the Nazi Enigma machine. The frame story takes place a few years later after the events of the war when Turing is questioned by police and later arrested. The entire film jumps back and forth between time periods, even visiting Turing as a schoolboy (for reasons that should go unspoiled). That’s enough cause to listen to Cumberbatch’s instruction to pay attention. This is a film to examine closely in order to fully appreciate its final effect.
The main narrative deals with Alan Turing’s participation with the British government as he works with a team of codebreakers to crack Enigma: the Nazi electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines which relayed messages that only the Axis could decipher. Everyone fit their roles perfectly. Charles Dance plays a strict commander who’s leading the team under the orders of Winston Churchill himself. Mark Strong plays a mysterious and likeable MI-6 agent who keeps under the radar until around the third act. Kiera Knightly gives a great performance as a newcomer to the code-cracking team and deals with her own issues relating to gender roles of the time. The one who really steals the show, however, is Cumberbatch, as he gives such a wide spectrum of emotion and expression. We don’t see Turing as the textbook scientist simply on a mission to prove his mathematical skill. We see him as a human. Cumberbatch pushes his acting limits to give a performance that really conveys passion and intelligence.
The writing, production, and direction is fantastic in every way. The film connects pieces of the past and present that weaves together an all-around powerful and unforgettable story about Turing. While it does that, it will also completely change your perspective on the entirety of World War II. It comes as no surprise since some of the material in the film is based on government files which weren’t released until very recently. I highly recommend this film to anyone who’s willing to pay close attention.