Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing
As Julian Assange
As Sherlock Holmes
If discommodiously intelligent aliens are indeed already among us, the likeliest candidate is Benedict Cumberbatch. In fact, he could well be their leader who has managed to infiltrate the human race via the most obvious route—as a movie star. I thought I was the one but then realized that I was sent to play the amiable fool who uses his anodyne personality to merge indistinguishably in life on this planet.
Of all the current crop of actors, none comes anywhere close to Cumberbatch when it comes to drilling deep into our psyche using his austere gaze. His performances as Alan Turing, Julian Assange and Sherlock Holmes all have that white light quality that takes considerable effort getting used to. Although of the three only Holmes is fictional, the other two could well fit that realm or, conversely, the “high-functioning sociopath” detective could well be real in the distant way that the other two are.
I am yet to watch Cumberbatch’s latest ‘The Imitation Game’ but going by the trailer there seems be that underlying theme to him. Being an accomplished actor Cumberbatch has managed to make all three characters distinct even though they all exude a measure of detachment from the hoi polloi that is not very pleasant. I have known characters like these in real life who require that you get used to them and not the other way around.
There is a clear aloofness to such characters even though there are moments in their lives when they do need ordinary human contact and interaction. They are naturally disruptive of the status quo without really trying to be so. Coming from a background in science generally and physics particularly I have long been aware of Turing and his extraordinary life. I found “Breaking the Code” (1996), the biography of Turing as portrayed by Derek Jacobi very engaging.
It would be a leap to make this claim but it is my general sense that English actors are particularly effective when it comes to portraying personalities that are brilliant in an impersonal, detached sort of way. That only partly explains why Cumberbatch excels at that. However, quite apart from that he is obviously an enormously talented performer. Things are going swimmingly for him at the moment. I am sure there would soon be an Oscar buzz about his performance as Turing which is being described in glowing terms.
I suppose part of Cumberbatch’s allure is that he is very English starting with his name. You get the sense that there is only one Cumberbatch and that is Benedict. It is a last name meant strictly and exclusively for him. Even his parents cannot use it. My name is Cumberbatch….Benedict Cumberbatch. If James Bond were an alien living among us, Cumberbatch would fit the role perfectly. Come to think of it, he would fit the role perfectly even if Bond were not an alien.