Anthony Lane in The New Yorker:
The year has barely begun, yet we already have a safe bet for best actress of 2010. Jenny, in Jon Amiel’s “Creation,” is certainly a hell of a role, beginning with an action sequence in the nude, switching to a flirtation scene—in which Jenny wears bloomers and a knitted top—with an ardent admirer, and closing with her demise, filmed in unremitting sorrow. So what if she’s an orangutan? A knockout is a knockout, whatever her descent.
In reality, there were two Jennys, both at London Zoo. Queen Victoria was introduced to one of them, in 1842, and pronounced her “painfully and disagreeably human.” One wants to ask: To whose pain, Ma’am, do you refer? The orangutan is one of the many organisms, simple and complex, that pass before Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany), a stratum of whose life is the subject of “Creation.” Bettany, with his jungly sideburns and smooth pate, offers a reasonable likeness of the great man, although he lacks the shaggy overhang of brow, extending far beyond the sunken eye sockets, which lent Darwin not only his solemn frown but, it must be said, his semi-simian air. I sometimes wonder if his tracing of our ancestry began not on his travels, or at his desk, but one morning when he glanced into his shaving mirror.
The book on which Jon Amiel concentrates is “The Origin of Species,” which was published in 1859, having been delayed for many years, and the task of his film is to register the cautionary tremors that preceded the quake. Darwin clearly foresaw the effect of his theories on society at large, especially on the faithful. “You’ve killed God, Sir!” his friend Thomas Huxley (Toby Jones) exclaims, jumping the gun a little.