By Sean Cordy
It is that time of year again when award contending films take over theaters. A couple weeks ago, Waco saw two such films, “Selma” and “The Imitation Game,” start their screenings. Both are worth seeing and address significant social issues in the last 50 years.
What makes “Selma” such a feat is that it can be classified as a biopic and historical drama about Martin Luther King Jr., but is also much more. “Selma,” which stars David Oyelowo, is a timeless film that is as much about the past as it is about the present and future, especially in the wake of racial tension in Ferguson, Mo.
The film highlights the events at Selma, Ala., where King led thousands of blacks and white supporters in a protest march from Selma to Birmingham to gain black voting privileges. Director Ava DuVernay is not concerned with educating the public of these events, but rather shows how far we have come since that turbulent decade. “Selma” reminds us that although problems of racial tension are still imminent, there can always be leaders to start a movement against it.
“The Imitation Game” is similar to “Selma” in some regards. While the latter deals with racial ties, “The Imitation Game” speaks about the acceptance of the gay community. It also examines the defining line between human and artificial intelligences via the incredible story of Alan Turing.
Turing, though not as well known as King, is certainly not any less interesting. Played by Benedict Cumberbatch, Turing is shown as one of the world’s most brilliant minds, creating a machine to crack the Enigma codes transmitted by the Germans during World War II. But even in his genius, the socially awkward mathematician was never accepted into British society and exhibited signs of what we now diagnosis as Asperger’s Syndrome. “The Imitation Game” provides background commentary about how we view people that think differently.
But as much as director Morten Tyldum shows us how Turing was persecuted for his awkwardness, the film is even more revealing of how society has segregated the gay community. Initially, Turing was not rejected for his sexuality because he kept it a secret – it was not until people grew close to him that they found out. When the government discovered his sexual orientation, he was subjected to hormonal therapy, as was typical of the British government in the 20th century. Like “Selma,” the film shows how far we have come concerning social justice, and we have trailblazers like MLK and Turing to thank.
Both films share phenomenal performances from their leading actors, Oyelowo as King and Cumberbatch as Turing. King is typically viewed as a saint in our culture, with a national holiday dedicated to him, but Oyelowo captures him as well-intending, albeit flawed, man. The same can be said of Cumberbatch, who plays Turing as a much more serious Sheldon Cooper for those familiar with “The Big Bang Theory.” Cumberbatch impeccably captures the quirks and genius of Turing.
Either film will please viewers with their supporting roles as well. “Selma” features an all-star cast of Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth and Oprah Winfrey, while “The Imitation Game” has a great ensemble including Matthew Goode, Mark Strong and Keira Knightley.
As college students, every dollar counts, and taking a trip to the theater can be costly. So which film should you see? In a perfect world, I’d tell you both, but between the two, better Oscar prospects and a topical story line means “Selma” has the advantage.