Directed by Morten Tyldum (Headhunters, Buddy), this biographical drama tells the heart-wrenching story of misunderstood mathematician Alan Turing, one of the forefathers of modern computing and without whom the Second World War would have lasted an awful lot longer. Based on Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, the film jumps between three key points in Turing’s life: his time at boarding school and his relationship with Christopher Morcom; the breaking of the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park during the War; and the investigation into him, conducted by the Manchester Police Force in the early 50s.
“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”
Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Fifth Estate) and Alex Lawther (Benjamin Britten: Peace and Conflict, Holby City) give powerful performances as an adult and young Turing respectively and Rory Kinnear (Skyfall, Penny Dreadful) plays Detective Nock – a man seemingly ahead of his times, through whose eyes the audience can see the incredulous laws of 1950s Britain. Mark Strong (Kick-Ass, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Zero Dark Thirty) plays the enigmatic Agent Stewart Menzies with his usual air of a manipulative villain, despite not being a villain as such. Both Keira Knightley (Never Let Me Go, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pride and Prejudice) and Matthew Goode (Watchmen, The Good Wife) stand strong as Turing’s co-workers at Bletchley and help show the cameraderie that developed as these great minds worked hard, but not always together, to end the War.
Tyldum’s choice to replay the events not completely in chronological order could be confusing for some who aren’t as well versed in the trials and tribulations Turing had to suffer through. However it does make for a bigger impact as all three parts come to a climax at the same point and explanations for certain actions in the 40s and 50s are finally given. The effect on the audience is a hard-hitting emotional tidal wave. The lighting and layout of the rooms in the 50s reflected – nay, enhanced – Cumberbatch’s tone the most successfully, particularly Turing’s confused state after being sentenced in 1953. In contrast, one might question the emphasis placed on Turing’s relationship with Joan Clarke (Knightley) in the 40s and its effect on the completion of his machine. It could also be noted that very little mathematics or science was ever actually discussed during his work at either of the three stages, perhaps to allow for greater engagement from a less scientifically minded audience.
A simple summary of the raw emotion of this film might come from the audience reactions – the careful balance of lighthearted comedy and painful truths had the audience both laughing madly and weeping wildly by the film’s conclusion. Not one for the faint of heart, this powerful story has made a valiant effort to tell the story of one of the most important men in modern history.
Despite all the work Alan Turing did in helping Britain to win the Second World War and in the advancement of modern science, he was convicted of Gross Indecency in 1953 for being a homosexual. He chose the punishment of two years hormonal therapy over a prison sentence. He took his own life in 1954. It took nearly 50 years for him to receive an official pardon for his “crimes”.
Talya Mellor, 2nd Year Mathematics: “It was heartbreaking but brilliant!”
Heather Collis, 2nd Year Mathematics: “It’s instantly become one of my favourite films.”