This film got quite a bit more praise than it deserved, I think, even though I think it is great. Tyldum’s direction is quite workmanlike and hardly worthy of Oscar attention; likewise, Kiera Knightley is better than usual in her supporting role, but she gave a genuinely great performance in Begin Again from earlier in 2014, which the Academy seemed to think was worth only the one song nomination. But enough about the Oscars, I guess.
The movie itself is really great, I think. The cast is superlative, led by a perfectly cast and wonderfully effective Benedict Cumberbatch. He’s given able support by a stern, crusty Charles Dance, a charming Matthew Goode (always a pleasure to see Goode in something), a surprisingly compelling Rory Kinnear and a clever, slightly sinister Mark Strong. The script does a really fine job in balancing the story elements of the efforts to break the Enigma code with more emotionally raw flashbacks to Turing’s childhood. A big kudos as well to Alex Lawther who does a really wonderful job as the young Turing. The film is smart enough to treat Turing’s homosexuality exactly right (in the context of the film, that is; I know some people had issues with the spy subplot and the way it handled Turing’s homosexuality). It’s central to the larger tragedy of Turing’s life, but it’s treated as part of the character and the emotional story the film is telling; at no time, does the movie become preachy or strident or even really take a strong position on gay issues – it simply lays out the way societal prejudices against homosexuality devastated Turing’s life and it leaves it up to the audience members to individually realize how sickening that is. Anyway, quite lovely movie. It does a good job dodging the clichés and weaknesses of the biopic genre to deliver a genuinely engaging, entertaining, suspenseful and ultimately deeply moving story about a life defined by life-altering secrets. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – superlative cast and a great script help this beautiful, engrossing movie dodge the biopic clichés and succeed brilliantly. 4 stars.