by Jaime Grijalba.
The promise that this film has on the paper is something else. This is the story of Alan Turing, a man who not only was among the smartest men on Earth during the time that he was alive, but also the person that alongside a group of people managed to crack Enigma, the coding machine that the Nazi Germany used to send messages. Not only that, but the story of Turing has a sad and tragic ending, where he is condemned due to his homosexuality to chemical castration, that ends up diminishing his life so much that he has no other choice but to kill himself, due to depression. How dramatic, how turning and how interesting does a movie like that sound? It sounds exciting, because it features a smart man doing smart things that practically win the war, while at the same time it shows a human side that affects the interior and personal life of someone that on the outside looks alien and ‘too smart to feel’, and it has a sad ending that doubles as a condemnation on certain aspects of society that until this day happen in certain countries of the world, due to archaic and wrong beliefs and bad thoughts in general. We can almost watch the movie unfold as while he finishes up the touches of the computer that will crack the code, he also has to deal with his inner feelings, perhaps with a partner with whom he works, or someone outside that he loves so much, but he can’t tell what he’s doing, because it’s a secret, and it’s also a secret that they love each other, as its illegal to be homosexual in the UK and…
Well, for some reason I always end up picturing things way more interesting than what they actually end up being, but for some reason, as much bile as this movie gets, just as much bile as this movie gets for its origins, for its lack of original filmmaking, for its conventional technicalities, I do think that it’s not actually an awful or a bad movie, it may be misguided, or even have a couple of flaws that are unforgivable, but it’s not bad. Now, that doesn’t mean that the film should win any award or have the amount of praise that it has received so far from so many angles (public and critics alike, at least in some circles, seem to absolutely adore this historic biopic), but it’s not the “disgrace”. A much better film could’ve been made, of course, sure, it’s always been the case when it comes to biopics, they could always be a tad bit better, that’s why we never see biopics among the most universally remembered films of all time, those that go into the critics books and find their way into the history of cinema. I could be wrong, but it seems to be the case that we haven’t had much of these “Oscar bait” in a while in the Oscars, I mean, at least in this format (of which are now two in the race, this and the forthcoming ‘The Theory of Everything’ (2014) that will be reviewed in a couple of days), and it could be a sign that these kind of films will soon disappear, but as long as we don’t pay attention to them and we don’t give them awards, or at least when we call them what they are: failed attempts at taking a truly interesting narrative just to turn it and twist it into something “awardable”, “praisable”, “nominated”, and likeable to everyone who goes to the cinema and just wants to see a good drama.
I know I promised that I wouldn’t delve into the Oscars politics or the predictions or whatever it is that practically everyone does when it comes to these movies (their prospects instead of what they project or the ideology that they present to us), but I want to get this out of my system before going beyond and trying to find something else to talk about when its “evil twin” (as nicknamed by Mike D’Angelo) has its chance in this formal place of 10 days of Oscar. As I was saying in the first paragraph, the story is fascinating and I think that’s what saves this from complete oblivion, the character of Turing is interesting in itself, and it doesn’t matter how its actually portrayed as long as basic facts remain loyal to reality, and I mean that with no disrespect to Cumberbatch’s performance that channels Sheldon Cooper and Spock in a weird mixture of Asperger and autism that results annoying to watch, but in the end compelling enough for us to understand his struggles with the things that he does, but not so much as to accept the dickish manner in which he treats his colleagues and people in general, which is maybe the most distancing part of the movie in terms of how it can make you feel any closer to the things that happen in it.
The homosexual life of Turing is, sadly, relegated to an almost court drama that spans a couple of police interrogations and some weird jokes in the main narrative, and it doesn’t have any of the weight that it must’ve really had in the life of him, and that must be one of the most foul things that this movie does, as it relegates his preference to a topic, as if to make a point, and not as part of an identity, as part of the life of someone that people should admire more. We should admire him because of the work he did in winning the Second World War, and not because he killed himself because he couldn’t stand being slowly dehumanized by the own government that once considered him the most important element in what was the task of decoding Enigma. In the end, there’s such an emphasis (in text) on his death and its connection with his legacy that it feels almost like a cop out, as if this really important element in the life of Turing (something that should’ve been covered beyond a much younger and confused version of him and his first ‘love’ of sorts) can only be used so the audience can feel sorry for him because of what happened to him because of it.
With weak cinematography and an editing that at times is way too obvious, this is a run-of-the-mill film that will only be remembered in case if someone ever makes a better Turing picture. And Keira Knightley, God, she does absolutely nothing in this movie, and that is another crime that should be punished.