Tag Archives: Benedict Cumberbatch

‘Black Mass’ Highlighted by Depp’s Chilling Work

Black_Mass_(film)_posterWelcome back, Johnny Depp. It has been a very, very long time.

“Black Mass” stars Depp as real-life mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, and chronicles his reign as the crime boss of Boston in the 70’s and 80’s, all while an undercover informant for the FBI. Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch are just two of the dozen big names that co-star as Scott Cooper directs.

They often say truth is stranger than fiction, and that is true with the Whitey Bulger story. A career criminal who tricked the FBI to arrest his enemies all while having a brother who is a state senator; Hollywood couldn’t come up with that on their own.

Like I said, it has been a while since we have seen Johnny Depp play a character we cared about in a movie that we liked. His last Oscar nomination was in 2008 for “Sweeney Todd,” and this year’s “Mortdecai” may have been the final straw, with many calling it the worst film and performance of his career. However ever since the first image of Depp as Bulger was released many have been hoping that “Black Mass” would be the shot of energy Depp’s career desperately needed, and thankfully (for both us and Depp) he turns in a near-career best performance.

Johnny Depp loves his makeup, that is no secret, and he disappears behind the wrinkles and black eyes of Whitey Bulger. Much like Jack Nicholson in “The Departed” (whose character was based off Bulger), Depp becomes more and more depraved and sadistic as the film goes on, and when the climax comes you are not sure what he is capable or willing to do.

The violence in “Black Mass” is like that of “Goodfellas”: bloody but swift. There are several well-crafted execution scenes however the most intense sequences are ones where Depp is just starring down someone from across a table not saying a word.

Speaking of “Goodfellas,” that leads me into the film’s flaws. It tries very hard to take from other gangster films, which more often than not makes us compare the film we’re watching to classic movies, and obviously it isn’t going to hold a candle to the greats. There is even a scene that tries to embody the same feel as the “funny how?” sequence from “Goodfellas,” and while it works in the moment, once it passes you realize it doesn’t hold the same weight as that Joe Pesci scene.

The payoff of the film also leaves more to be desired. The film goes from a guy getting taken out by Bulger and his crew in one scene to everything starting to get wrapped up in the next. In fact most of the film feels as if the filmmakers assume you know the Whitey Bulger story, and so it takes little time to introduce backstories, which makes us watch characters that feel more expendable than engaging (outside Depp and Joel Edgerton’s FBI agent).

Still, narrative flaws aside, there are several brilliant scenes sprinkled throughout “Black Mass,” and one in particular that may be remembered for a while. It is fantastically refreshing to see Depp return to a serious role, and I’m sure he will get some serious consideration come Oscar season. As a film, “Black Mass” is solid, but you’re going to see for Depp’s chilling performance, and it is what you will walk out remembering most.

Critics Rating: 7/10



‘Imitation Game’ A Great Biopic

imitiation            It may be January, but that doesn’t mean every movie that you have the option of seeing is crap pedaled out by the studios. Case in point: “The Imitation Game”.

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as real-life mathematician Alan Turing, “Imitation Game” tells the tale of Turing and his team who try to crack the Nazi’s enigma code in World War II. Keira Knightley and Mark Strong co-star as Morten Tyldum directs.

The cracking of the Nazi’s secret coded messages is an event that many people are aware of but few, including myself, actually know the story behind it, or who Alan Turing actually was. After seeing “The Imitation Game” it is truly amazing seeing what Turing and his team did, effectively creating the world’s first computer. And it is Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Turing, paired with a fantastic script by Graham Moore, which makes this a better-than-average biopic.

I haven’t seen too many things with Benedict Cumberbatch in them. I (unfortunately) saw The Hobbit trilogy where he voiced Smaug but never saw “Star Trek Into Darkness” and don’t watch “Sherlock”. So maybe it was my unfamiliarity with Cumberbatch that made me completely immersed into his portrayal of Turing, a performance that will land him an Oscar nomination.

Turing is a man faced with enemies and confrontation on all sides. On the outside he and his British government are in a war with the Germans. At work he isn’t exactly the most popular guy, making it very clear that he believes that he is far more intelligent and capable than his counterparts. And he has a battle within, trying to hide his possible homosexuality, a crime in 1940’s England.

Cumberbatch shows a man who can crack codes and puzzles, but the one conundrum he cannot seem to master are human social cues. It is a masterful performance that has many emotions and moods, and Cumberbatch fully becomes Turing.

Keira Knightley plays Joan Clark, Turing’s friend and partner in the enigma project. Clark is a woman in a man’s world doing a man’s job, and Knightley shows this struggle. A woman who is in every way equal, if not superior, to the people around her, Clark was a crucial part of attempting to crack the code, and Knightley does her memory justice.

The screenplay by Moore perfectly embodies the story that is one of the more interesting and engaging classified tales of the 20th century. The script actually features a surprising number of laughs, and gives all characters time to become fleshed out individuals.

When you look at what Alan Turing contributed to mankind (his invention is credited to having led to 14 million lives being saved), a film about him in the least he deserves. However “The Imitation Game” is a very fitting and honorable tribute to him, and an entertaining film at that. There are some moments that are telegraphed or by-the-numbers, and the film’s narrative and motives completely and randomly shift in the climax, but the film is often engaging and always entertaining, and features outstanding work from Benedict Cumberbatch and screenwriter Moore.

Critics Rating: 8/10