This list has been on my wall for a year and a half. It’s almost finished.
I’m sort of embarrassed about it. But since I went through all the trouble I might as well share the results. I’m not even sure what my rating is based on here. Some works I still enjoyed even if they were a little rough around the edges, like “The last enemy” or “Wreckers”. Some were better productions but offended me nonetheless (“The fifth Estate”, blech). So here it is: The best and worst of Cumberbatch, rated by me.* Your mileage may, of course, vary.
1. Parade’s End
(Pre-)WWI love triangle drama. That was a moving role, sufficient drama for me. Poor Tietjens. If you’re looking for a Downton Abbey replacement, this might be your thing!
2. Star Trek: Into Darkness
Science fiction with a twist. The new Star Trek movies work for me, and Khan kicks ass.
Romance/drama. Creepy as hell, plays a rapist. Moustache! Good movie based on a great novel.
Fun fact: This is the performance that got him the (only) audition for ‘Sherlock’ with Moffat and Vertue.
4. August Osage County
Oklahoma family drama. What a production, there is major acting mojo here. Feels like a theatre stage the whole time, intense performances. Kind of an unusual role for him (shy guy).
5. To the ends of the Earth
Based on a Golding novel, it’s a coming of age story. Period piece, on a ship, with sexy times. Need I say more? Mildly funny at times!
6. The last enemy
Total surveillance London middle east love triangle thingie. This could have been a decent series. But it’s still rough around the edges, plot jumps and whatnot. And why does TIA have an accent? It’s a computer. Overall okay! Anyway, you shouldn’t skip this one, because nudity.
Dark British countryside drama. Sort of a bland movie, but interesting atmosphere and actors. Wasn’t too bad!
8. Third Star
James has cancer and his last wish is to visit a particular beach. Bring tissues. Lots of tissues. Erm, for tears.
9. The Imitation Game
Alan Turing biopic. Why has this movie not achieved a better ranking with me? All the components are there! I have ambiguous feelings about this movie, kind of like ‘The Fifth Estate’ because I know too much about Turing to sit back and enjoy the ride. But the performance is heartbreaking nonetheless.
10. Starter for 10
Romcom feel good stuff with quizzes. Cute nerdy role!
Still noteworthy for reasons
Stuart: A Life backwards
Journalist writes homeless person’s story. Predictable tear jerker, but again, cute nerdy role. Also, Tom Hardy kills.
Dr. Slippery / Fortysomething
Awkward off-key British comedy. But you get Dr House, the Doctor and Cumberbatch for your troubles. And he looks so young.
Worst (in order of awfulness)
1. The Fifth Estate
Supposedly biographical drama of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. I couldn’t watch it to the end because it sucked so much. I’m too well informed about Assange to be able to watch this without going “grr noo” all the time. Sorry.
Boy meets horse, horse goes to war, many people die, boy meets horse again. It’s so tacky. Relatively short appearance. Do not recommend unless you’re into soppy Spielberg. Ridiculous moustache.
3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I’ve tried to watch this twice and I still don’t get it. It’s not a bad movie, in fact it may be quite the opposite, but maybe I’m just too stupid or I have to read the novel by John le Carré first. I’ll probably do that and try again sometime. Also, hair.
It is now 2016 and I have read the 400-page novel. Let me tell you this: Easily accessible is something else. It’s a highly intricate story and le Carré is not being kind to his readers. You have to possess certain spy skillsets to grasp what’s going on. Spreadsheets for jargon in the “Circus” (MI6) are highly advised. It’s very subtle.
After I read the book I could appreciate the film more insofar as I could understand what the heck was going on and who was who. But without that, you are lost in the movie. I liked this adaptation insofar as it tries to convey things in a similar style to the book: hardly ever stating anything obvious, and the big reveal is very understated, the waiting and the watching is what it’s all about.
Cumberbatch’s character Peter Guillam stealing the files from the archives was one of my favorite scenes in the book and they adapted it well to the movie. It’s really hard to portray a character screaming internally while trying to act all smooth and cool to the outside. A lot of feelings and fears aren’t explicitly stated but conveyed through internal monologue in the book; so in the movie, there is a lot of silence. Having read the book, I could fill in those gaps and appreciate the (also very much understated) acting. But I stand by my point: As a viewer who has no clue what’s going on, you’re probably not going to enjoy this very much, all these blokes in trench coats staring at each other.
Interesting side fact: In the book, Guillam is hung up on his flute-playing girlfriend Camilla and gets more and more suspicious of her cheating on him, as he gets suspicious of everything he believed in at the Circus potentially being compromised. In the movie, they made him gay. When Smiley tells him that he should assume he is being watched, he breaks up with his S.O. pre-emptively, possibly to protect him? Anyway, it’s heartbreaking.
Spoiler! The secret star of the book is a homosexual love affair between two spies. The ending is not quite so subtle in the movie, though: I thought they could have done without the dramatic gesture of P. shooting H., but hey, what do I know.
I’m still missing some big ones like ‘Hawking’, ’12 years a slave’ or ‘Amazing Grace’. If I like them I might change the ranking accordingly. I’ve definitely gone out of my comfort zone and watched movies I would not have watched otherwise. It’s been a fun ride despite cringing through really awkward movies like ‘Four Lions’ or that horrible ‘Van Gogh’ documentary (jeez, I mean, blimey).
I hope this helps with prioritizing!
*’Sherlock’ is non-competitive. Obviously.