Benedict Cumberbatch received his first Oscar nomination for playing Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (2014).
I finally decided to watch The Imitation Game after I finished Park and Recreation and was feeling as if there’s nothing meaningful left in my life (sighs, I especially love Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson and strangely enough, April Ludgate). I didn’t think it was as bad as people say. In fact, I thought it was pretty good and earned its best picture nomination, although a win would have been way too much. I didn’t think Morten Tyldum needed to be nominated for his direction though, because it does feel at times that the movie is trying to juggle too many balls, covering the war and homosexuality while trying to be a biopic at the same time. It certainly had its flaws, like the childhood scenes that felt disjointed, but overall, I thought it was an enjoyable enough film. This might also be my favourite Keira Knightley performance, considering that I usually can’t stand her. Her presence was very welcoming, and even though her role was really thin, I really liked her character and performance. It’s nothing amazing, but she might even be my pick for best supporting actress (or Emma Stone ) only because the lineup is sooooo underwhelming.
I don’t want to incur the wrath of the cumberbitches but I’m not the greatest fan of Benedict Cumberbatch. He sort of reminds me of Anne Hathaway/Meryl Streep/Dustin Hoffman at their worst: Talented? Yes. But has this self-awareness and at times, arrogance in their acting choices that can be off-putting. I feel like Cumberbatch is best at playing eccentric characters like Sherlock (which he should have won the Emmy for) because his mannerisms and delivery are so distinct that it becomes distracting when he plays “ordinary” characters, like in August: Osage County. Still, I think he’s a very good actor and I actually like his real life personality and voice.
One complain that people often have about Cumberbatch performance is that he is way too mannered. Actually, I agree that it can be a bit distracting at times, especially the stammering which I find fake. That being said, the movie was going for the angle implying that Turing was autistic (he allegedly was), and to me, Cumberbatch’s performance makes sense in this context. The refusal to make eye contact, the anti-social behaviour and abrasive personality is actually pretty well-depicted, especially is you have seen people with autism. I also felt that it became more natural in the later half of the film (either that, or I just got used to it).
Another problem I had was how I just wasn’t really interested in the character. I get that he was supposed to be this genius who wasn’t likable, but unlike, say, Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, I just wasn’t really drawn to the character or compelled to find out more about him. I know this sounds weird, and to me this is more of the script’s fault but I felt that the “tortured genius” part of the performance wasn’t really fleshed out. It’s kinda the reason why I find it hard to write this post: While the performance is very good, I just don’t find this urge to rave about it or go crazy about it.
The main thing that works for me are the emotional aspects of the performance. Although Turing wasn’t very expressive, I really felt for his character. I actually thought the best scene was when he distributed apples and awkwardly tried to crack a joke – I know many people would say that the last breakdown scene was the best (as baity as it was, it was still great), but I really felt for him at that point. I think Cumberbatch found an emotional connection to this character that can be heartbreaking at times, and I think the emotional torment that the character went through can really be felt.
I may have sounded extremely critical, but I actually liked and respected Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as Alan Turing. To me, it’s great work, but it’s great in a standard way, if that makes sense. Maybe it’s because I am not a huge fan of his style, but I think he managed to bring something special to the performance that keeps you watching. Still, it’s a deserved nomination.
Performance: 4/5 (I am more enthusiastic than I actually sounded in this post)