When I first heard that there was a movie called The Imitation Game, I assumed it would be a hard-hitting expose of those Connecticut outlet stores, which instead of providing genuine bargains on Ralph Lauren or Burberry, just sell less exciting goods manufactured directly for the outlets. And I also thought that Benedict Cumberbatch might be playing a Scotland Yard detective, working undercover as an innocent English tourist browsing for knockoff fragrances. But instead, The Imitation Game turned out to be a terrific, very entertaining, Hollywood-style biopic of Alan Turing, the British genius who pretty much invented the computer, shortened World War II by breaking the Nazis’ impenetrable network of codes, but who died tragically, after being relentlessly persecuted because he was gay.
The movie takes place at all of the English locales which Americans love best: a stately yet cruel boarding school, a manor house called Bletchley, and assorted jolly pubs. As Turing, Benedict is presented as a sort of Rainman figure, a savant who can solve impossible riddles but stammers and retreats when faced with any social situation. Benedict is heavenly, although I kept wondering if he might run into Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking, and they could discuss the nature of time and their mutual Oscar buzz. A batch of desperately adorable English actors turn up, including Charles Dance, Mark Strong and Matthew Goode, all of whom spend most of their screen time shaking their heads ruefully at Benedict’s eccentric behavior, as if they’re about to burst into “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Alan Turing.” Keira Knightley arrives as a brilliant mathematician, and by now I bet that when Keira is playing any sort of sprightly Englishwoman in a period film, she can supply her own wardrobe of jaunty fedoras and trim belted coats.
Even when the movie sometimes gets clunky, by repeating catchphrases and dumbing things down, Turing’s story is so fascinating that I didn’t care, and by the time Alan and his associates cracked Hitler’s code, I was in tears. On a certain level, the movie is a little like watching a very special episode of The Big Bang Theory, with all the characters in tweed jackets and Fair Isle sweater vests, but I’m always a sucker for egghead triumph.
I asked my cousin Andrew what he thought of the film; Andrew has just begun marketing an app which will insert the steamy gay sex scenes from How To Get Away With Murder into any episode of Duck Dynasty. Andrew was already familiar with Turing’s life, and his status as a gay hero who named his computer Christopher, after an early boyfriend. Andrew loved the movie, but he told me, “I just have one problem, because while Alan Turing was amazing, he was also hounded by the British police, until he committed suicide. So while I was watching the movie, I kept thinking about homophobes like Michele Bachmann and those Focus on the Family idiots and all of those nasty Cardinals and Ayatollahs. And while I know that progress takes time, and that I should be working to change these peoples’ hearts and minds, I don’t want to. I want to kill them.” Andrew makes an excellent point, which is why The Imitation Game is the real thing, if you ask me.