Should Kids See ‘The Imitation Game’?

It’s rare for a movie to both entertain and educate simultaneously, but The Imitation Game expertly succeeds at doing both. It helps that it tells the fascinating yet little known true story of British computer scientist Alan Turing, who working with a team of Britain’s top code breakers, succeeded in breaking the German “Enigma” code during World War II. The British could intercept the German communications, but had not been able to decode the messages as there were far too many possible encryption settings to try. To this dilemma, Turing introduces the concept of an innovative computing machine that would try all settings. His ground-breaking machine eventually breaks the code, which gives the allies access to critical intelligence information that is believed to have shortened the war by at least two years, saving millions of lives.

Although Winston Churchill said Turing made the “single biggest contribution to the Allied victory,” and his invention led to the modern day computer, few had even heard of him until recently. His anonymity is mostly due to the secrecy surrounding their work at the time.

The Imitation Game provides a unique glimpse into this compelling part of history, so it has a significant educational opportunity for older kids (and adults). And there are other interesting themes, such as the often untapped potential of people who are not taken seriously by mainstream society. Turing, who is portrayed as having autistic tendencies which made him unpopular, tells a young woman, “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” It’s an inspiring message that plays out throughout the film. And kids who don’t fit in at school or are bullied, as Turing is in a flashback scene, will take comfort in the film’s message that it is often those who stand out from the crowd who enjoy the most outstanding achievements.

Movie Details:

Director: Morten Tyldum

Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, and Matthew Goode

Rating: PG-13 (Includes some sexual references, mature themes and cigarette smoking)

Run time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

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Is The Imitation Game violent?

There are a few brief scenes of war and a quick shot of bandaged, injured soldiers, but most of the film takes place in Bletchley Park, away from the battles.

Is The Imitation Game educational?

As mentioned above, the movie offers a glimpse into the intelligence gathering aspects of War World II, but it is educational for kids on a variety of levels. Viewers are reminded of the high death toll a war exacts and its impact on civilians (families with children are shown huddled in a shelter as bombs explode overhead), as well as the life-and-death decisions that must be made.

Does The Imitation Game have foul language?

There is occasional mild profanity and some slurs are used, but it’s minimal.

Your child should see this movie if:

He is old enough to comprehend and be interested in a movie about World War II. He has the maturity to examine controversial subjects, including homosexuality and the ethical dilemmas of a war.

Your child should not see this movie if:

He is very young and easily bored. Although the film is engrossing, there is very little action (nothing explodes in space), so only older children (age 13 and above depending on maturity) are likely to enjoy it.

He is not ready for controversial subjects such as homosexuality. Although there are no scenes depicting it, the main character’s sexual orientation is mentioned and is a noteworthy, though not central, part of the story.

Discussion questions:

The movie depicts an officer telling a woman to try the secretarial pool when she applies for a position among the code breakers, despite her superior intelligence. What types of people are often dismissed today due to prejudices that hinder their achievements?

In war, as in life, there are often tough ethical questions that have no easy answers. Do you agree that it’s best to sacrifice a few lives to save many more?

Why do you think the achievements of the code breakers during the war were kept a secret for so many years?

Look up the real life story of Alan Turing. How did his real life differ from the movie’s portrayal?

Featured Image © The Weinstein Company

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