Science on the Screen: Imitation Game at The Capri

By on 29 March, 2017 in Art, Fun, Kate and Stephen with 0 Comments

For $20, it’s hard to find a better bargain for your entertainment dollars than the Science on the Screen at The Capri. That price got us two movie tickets, a bottle of water, and our brains stuffed full of information about World War II and cryptography. It was a lot of fun.

First of all, Science on the Screen is part of a national movement, and we’re lucky to have The Capri here in town as a participant. Movies are fun, but they are extra fun when you can hear from an expert talking about some of the subject matter depicted in the film. We’d been to see The Martian, during the last series of Science on the Screen films, and it was awesome. A scientist from NASA came down from Huntsville and talked about everything from Mars colonization to solid fuel booster rockets and interstellar radiation.

This time around, the film was The Imitation Game, the hugely successful 2014 film starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing. The expert speaking before the film was Dr. Rich Muller, a professor (and dean) at Maxwell’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies. Unfortunately, Dr. Muller wasn’t really introduced before he began speaking, so we weren’t sure if he was just a local guy with an interest in World War II history, or what.

It turns out, he was really impressive, and a true expert on his subject matter, more from a military history perspective than cryptography or computing (which the film is also about). But his remarks were incredibly interesting and added greatly to the film. We agreed wholly with his assessment that it was a “disgrace” that the early books about the Bletchley Park codebreakers didn’t mention Turing.

Dr. Muller explains WW2 cryptography

Dr. Muller tied together the clash between British spycraft and advanced German technology, including Axis innovations in battlefield command and control. He also lifted up the contributions of the Polish government, which were overlooked by the film. One of the most interesting facts he shared was how the Germans never learned that the Allies had cracked the codes, in part because Gen. Erwin Rommel was convinced that his resupply ships were being sunk en route to Africa because of leaks in the Italian government.

We already knew a little about the film’s subject matter. We had both long loved Neal Stevenson’s novel, Cryptonomicon, which explores the legacy of the famous Enigma machines. We also enjoy the incredibly lengthy Hardcore History podcasts from Dan Carlin. And enough people have favorite cinematic depictions of Nazis, that there’s actually a website called Hitler Parody Wiki. Note: Although Cumberbatch plays Dr. Strange in another film by Marvel Comics, the Red Skull does not appear in this depiction of World War II.

On a more serious note: Want to see the legacy of Turing, and truly wallow in the horror of the cultural barbarism that destroyed him and (until recently) his legacy? Try to wrap your mind around some of the ideas contained here.

The bottom line here is that you should really go see some of these special events at The Capri. There are two films left in the Science on the Screen series: “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (April 6) and “Seabiscuit” (April 20). Hearing from experts really does make the film cooler, even if you’ve seen it before. And while we’re plugging things, we are also excited about seeing “1984” at The Capri on April 4. Check out their whole list of upcoming films here.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with two cats, a dog, 18 fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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