Did you know homosexuality was illegal in England until 1967? Did you know that thousands of men and women were arrested for and convicted of homosexuality as a crime before that date? I didn’t until the end of The Imitation Game, a movie about Alan Turing, a man who not only helped invent one of the first computers in order to break a super-complicated Nazi code but was also gay. When The Imitation Game ended, the placard stating the aforementioned facts about homosexuality appeared before the credits rolled, and I thought to myself, “I want to watch a movie about that.”
To be clear, The Imitation Game is a very interesting movie. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Turing as a pseudo-autistic genius, completely antisocial until he meets the only female member, Joan (Keira Knightley), of the team trying to crack the code. Joan is his only true intellectual equal on the team, and their relationship forms the crux of the movie. The rest of the cast is filled out by talented performers like Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, and Charles Dance, who all add to an effective drama that doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war and the terrible decisions that have to be made in the midst of one.
But Alan Turing is gay, and the movie barely knows it. Imitation Game instead focuses on the drama surrounding the creation of the code-breaking computer, which is all well and good, except you don’t really learn how they made the computer at all. It’s sort of glossed over with some flashy camerawork, and Turing’s homosexuality is glossed over with some cheap psychoanalysis involving his one childhood friend. Cumberbatch and Knightley are both riveting, and they go a long way to make Imitation Game riveting in turn. But when the placard at the end of your movie is more interesting than your movie, why did you make the movie?