With Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, and others.
Alan Turing’s brilliance was what brought him to the British naval intelligence when they were trying to crack the German code of military communication at the beginning of World War II. The story of Turing and his group of mathematicians charged with cracking the code is fascinating because it shows how an early computer was able to perform brain like functions.
However, I worry that Cumberbatch who plays Turing is being type cast as a person on the spectrum of autistic disorders. Best known for playing Sherlock in the modern BBC tv series, in that show he is unable to read social cues which sometimes leads to some comical scenes. His IMDB page shows that he has had the roles of Stephen Hawking, brilliant physicist, and Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, a string of successes playing very brainy, socially inept,historically significant heroes.
I am beginning to want to see him in a comedy. Sometimes I look at a person’s career in the movies, and wish that they wouldn’t try so hard to be taken seriously. This happened to Meryl Streep in the 1980s with her string of melodramatic roles and impeccable accents. But eventually she got to the age where no one would cast her (after 40 you are washed up as a woman in Hollywood) and she loosened up and took some parts that showed her range, not just as a serious dramatic actress, but as someone who could pull in serious money at the box office (Mama Mia).
But whether or not Cumberbatch needs to broaden his range of roles, the real question is whether the movies need to sentimentalize people who have brains and accomplish great things with them. There is a movie out now about Stephen Hawking which concentrates on his marriage. Hawking is known for his theoretical work in physics.
The movie about Turing falsely claims he called his computer after his first love, Christopher, and falsely claims that Turing’s personality mimics Sherlock Holmes (in Sherlock, the BBC series) as a man on the spectrum of autism.
Let Cumberbatch have more of a range. Allow the audience to absorb all sorts of personality traits– even within a single person– so that we don’t get stuck in this rut of typecasting, or stereotyping actors whose greatest success must be repeated over and over again. It is taxing to watch a person think on screen. You want to see him do something else once in a while. When we do, for example, see Turing running in the middle of a field, there is no context given. At the end, there is a horrible injustice done to Turing because of his homosexuality, which leads to tragedy, and some of Keira Knightly’s best acting.
There are distinct pleasures in the movie, including Charles Dance’s performance as Commander Denniston, the flinty superior in the navy who hires Turing. Allen Leech who we are used to seeing play the part of the chauffeur Tom Branson who married the doomed youngest daughter in Downton Abbey, has a turn as a complicated mathematician on the team of code crackers. I wish that Hollywood would take the seriousness of intelligence a little less seriously, and the injustice of criminalizing homosexuality a little more seriously.