Turing was a rather complex man. A genius, but he could be shrewd, cold and callous at times. However such personality traits made him the perfect candidate for a top secret job working for the government as a cryptanalyst, left with the seemingly impossible task of cracking the code for the machine aptly entitled ‘Enigma’. Alongside his exhausted team, consisting of Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), John Cairncross (Allen Leech) and Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), they know that if they can complete the task at hand, they will have unlimited, uncharted access to the Nazi’s plans, and thus counteract their attacks, save millions of lives, and put an end to this barbaric war. Though with Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) eager to find a way to sack Turing for his obnoxious and arrogant demeanour, the mathematician must do all he can to ensure that his homosexuality – considered illegal – is not exposed.
With Norwegian director Morten Tyldum at the helm, the man behind the exceptionally captivating thriller Headhunters, he has brought such talents to this tale in quite remarkable fashion, enhancing the suspenseful aspects of the narrative, and the notion of this ‘race against time’ that Turing and his accomplices face when attempting to crack this code. Yet in spite of the grandiosity of this story, and the severe implications that exist, this remains an intimate, moving character study of an ostracised genius, bullied at school, all the while harbouring romantic feelings towards another classmate. To have such an intriguing and complicated character at the heart of the tale makes it forever engrossing, as his own development and progress is equally as important to this particular film as winning the war.
Cumberbatch does justice to this intricately crafted character, turning in the best performance of his career to date. He completely embodies Turing, both physically and mentally, coming to terms with the deep rooted emotions that lie within. He even gives off the impression that he’s managed to transcend the film’s initial intentions by bringing more depth to proceedings than is within Graham Moore’s screenplay. Add to that the sumptuous aesthetic of this resplendent setting, and you have a film that impresses in both style and substance.
To feel gripped, on edge and moved in such a short period of time is of real commendation to Tyldum, who takes his audience through the motions in this unforgettable piece. It may not suddenly spring to mind as potential Oscar bait, but having picked up the top prize at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival (the same award 12 Years a Slave had won), and the fact that this distinctively British ambiance served the likes of The King’s Speech so well at the Academy Awards, it certainly brings a sense of hope that this may be a real contender – and it deserves every ounce of success it achieves.