I don’t share our 16 year old daughter’s obsession with Benedict Cumberbatch (it would be difficult to aspire to those heights), but I do think he’s an excellent actor, so I was looking forward to seeing this movie, which stars the actor as Alan Turing, a brilliant British mathematician, who invented the predecessor to the modern computer (the Turing machine) and was instrumental in helping to decipher the German Enigma machine code and shorten World War II.
The movie did not disappoint. It covers roughly the time between when Turing starts work at Bletchley Park (with the rest of the codebreakers) and ends when he is undergoing chemical castration for his “deviant” behavior (being homosexual). Benedict Cumberbatch portrays him as someone who is clearly on the autism disorder spectrum–brilliant but unable to read social cues or relate to people. Keira Knightley co-stars as his female counterpart, although with much better social skills. She utters my favorite line of the movie when talking about the need for a team effort to break the Enigma code. (“If they don’t like you, they won’t help you.”)
Alan Turing’s end is tragic, as he ends up killing himself, unable to endure the side effects of his treatment. He was not issued a posthumous pardon until 2013. You see him suffering from the side effects of the chemical castration at the end of the movie but no more than that.
I do have some quibbles about the movie. For instance, it’s clear that the Keira Knightley character has been placed there for politically correct purposes. More importantly, the movie portrays the team of codebreakers as being entirely British, completely ignoring the instrumental role the Polish mathematicians played in breaking the code (not to mention the fact that it was the Polish resistance fighters who were able to smuggle an Enigma machine to Britain to begin with). But these quibbles in no way detract from the excellence of the movie. In fact, the movie was so compelling that I was “forced” to buy two books—one on Alan Turing himself and one on the codebreakers at Bletchley Park. Stay tuned (eventually) for the reviews of those.
I highly recommend this movie. Because there are no action scenes or massive explosions, it is a perfect movie to watch in the comfort of your home and the fine acting and interesting story line make it well worth the effort.