An entertaining narrative and amazing performances by actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, combined with fleshed out characters and old-fashioned epic styled cinematography, cover up minor moments of typical biopic cheesiness, making this movie highly worthwhile.
I must confess that I knew very little about Alan Turing before going into this film. An incredibly fleeting preview look at who he was showed him to be a highly influential figure in the British victory in World War II, and as somebody later in life prosecuted for the then-crime of homosexual acts.
Although Turing himself seemed like an interesting man to read about, I was initially slightly hesitant. Biography pictures have never been my cup of tea, and even the presence of talented actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightly and Mark Strong were not enough to convince me of this film's potential quality.
In the end what convinced me to see it was the mix of a good trailer, solid early reviews on the movie's quality, and the fact that the director Morten Tyldum's last movie was the very exciting, and very good, "Headhunters", which showed a lot of potential in him as a director.
The movie does a lot well straight off the bat. It's a highly entertaining film which moves at a fast pace, as it focuses mainly on Turing and his team of code-breakers as they try to break Enigma, the Nazi military code machine. Along with the main plot the story cuts back to Turing's childhood, when he was an outcast who was picked on at school before a boy named Christopher befriended him and introduced him to the codes which would play such a large role in his life. Also featured is Turing after the war, where police are investigating a break in at his house, which ultimately leads to him being targeted as a potential homosexual. By changing the time-frames that the story is being told in, and slightly messing with chronological order, the story is made infinitely more interesting, and we get to learn far more about the man Alan Turing.
Unlike failed biographical films, this movie has characters that feel genuine, and don't just feel like actors saying famous lines that the person was famous for saying. Of course, there are scenes where that does happen, but for the most part it is not a problem. The direction is top-notch throughout this whole work, and Tyldum gives the film the look of an old-school spy thriller, giving each shot an air of importance and, along with the work of the script by Graham Moore (and adapted from the book by Andrew Hodges), keeps what could be a slow and plodding story moving at a brisk pace.
Although the movie gets a lot right, it does have some moments that bring it down from a potentially great movie, and keep it at just being very good. For most of the movie, the soundtrack is superb, and atmosphere building, however on some occasions it is overbearing and creates some cheesy moments. In general, melodrama proves to be the film's main problem, with a few cringe-worthy scenes that are quite typically found in the biopic genre. In these scenes, characters act far more earnestly then they most likely would in real life so as to build the tension of dramatic moments. That being said, this dramatic flair is also what makes the movie interesting, so I suppose moments like this are easily forgiven. Another small problem I had with the film is that some historical moments just feel like they were added for the sake of it, almost like they had a check-list of things to cross-off that had to be in the film so as not to bother history buffs. In a movie that already flirts dangerously with what is fact and what is fiction, some of these definitely don't feel necessary.
Overall, despite some flaws, the movie works as it is incredibly entertaining with a clever narrative that shows the effect that Alan Turing had on the war. From what I hear the facts are exaggerated, but that feels understandable, and the movie still results in a smartly directed and worthwhile movie that has potential to be a genuine crowd-pleaser, in the old-fashioned meaning of the word.
The lame and more cliché moments in the script perhaps keep the movie from being great, and the no-risk approach to maintaining the likability of Turing perhaps is why it just misses out on taking the movie to the next level. That in mind, I would definitely recommend this to anybody looking for a movie to go and see in cinemas. Cumberbatch and Knightley are brilliant, and I will definitely be eager to see Tyldum's next feature film.
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