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Posts Tagged ‘Benedict Cumberbach’

Benedict Cumberbatch as early computer creator Alan Turing

Benedict Cumberbatch as early computer creator Alan Turing

“THE IMITATION GAME” My rating: B+

114 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

With his monumental forehead and widely spaced eyes, Benedict Cumberbatch more resembles the Star Child from “2001” than a movie sex symbol.
Nevertheless, he has his own army of groupies (the self-proclaimed “Cumberbitches”) and his unconventional looks pay off handsomely in roles as brainy outsiders.
Having already put his stamp on Sherlock Holmes for the BBC and PBS, Cumberbatch now takes on Alan Turing, the mathematician and inventor whose genius — he was instrumental in defeating the Nazis and is considered the father of the computer — wasn’t enough to keep him from running afoul of Britain’s draconian laws about “deviant” sexuality.
This film from Norwegian director Morten Tyldum (maker of the nifty thriller “Headhunter”) resembles an extremely good installment of “Masterpiece Theatre,” right down to the familiar actors.
But Cumberbatch’s central performance is so overwhelming that it elevates this historical drama into the realm of Shakespearean tragedy.
In early World War II this Turing is recruited to help crack Enigma, the Nazis’ allegedly unbeatable system for sending coded messages throughout the Reich’s war machine.
Denniston (Charles Dance), the brittle naval officer in charge of the effort, is not impressed with Turing, who seems indifferent or, worse, smug. (“Mother says I can be off-putting…”)
In fact, Cumberbatch gives us not just a brilliant eccentric but an autistic individual.  He avoids eye contact. He’s incapable of reading other people’s emotions. He doesn’t “get” humor.

(more…)

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Michael Fassbender
Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Chiwetel Ejiofor

“12 YEARS A SLAVE”  My rating: A  (Opens wide on Nov. 1)

133 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“12 Years a Slave” is gruelling.

Exhausting.

Horrifying.

It is, one can say without fear of contradiction, the best, most complex and fully-realized fictional film ever about American slavery.

Here the full panoply of institutional evil is on display, not just the physical abuse (whippings, chains, drudgery) but the emotional toll.

There have been other movies on the subject, but most have either been a whitewash (“Gone with the Wind,” which feels unwatchable in the wake of the gut-punch that is “12 Years…”) or the stuff of lurid exploitation (“Mandigo” and, yes, Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained”).

Steve McQueen’s film – based on the 1853 memoir of a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery – manages to reference slavery’s many evils without feeling exploitative.

Moreover, it does something I’ve never before seen.  In addition to telling its story from a slave’s point of view, it is a devastating study of the corrosive influence of the “peculiar institution” on the lives of slaveholders themselves.

In 1841 Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) lived in upstate New York with his wife and family.  A free Negro, he enjoyed the rights and privileges of any citizen. He was well liked and admired and made a good living as a musician.

Lured away with the promise of work on the road, he was drugged and awoke to find himself in chains in a dank cellar somewhere in Washington D.C.  (The still-unfinished Capitol building towers over the town, providing a silent but eloquently ironic commentary on Solomon’s situation.)

Like any free man, he indignantly protests his treatment — and is beaten for it. He learns to keep quiet.

Soon, with other kidnapped blacks, he finds himself with a new name – Platt – and on a steamboat headed south to Louisiana, where he will pass through the hands of two masters.

Ford (Benedict Cumberbach) is what you might call a Jeffersonian slaveholder. An essentially decent man, he knows slavery is wrong but is too invested economically in his plantation to repudiate the practice.

Still, the slave and the master develop something approaching mutual respect – it’s pretty clear that Solomon/Platt is the only person for miles around with whom Ford can hold an intelligent dialogue.

But in a world where a black man can be hanged for reading and writing, Solomon knows to keep his light well hidden. (more…)

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