Enigma

Movie Review by Kris Griffiths

Starring: Dougray Scott, Kate Winslett, Saffron Burrows, Jeremy Northam, Tom Hollander
Director: Michael Apted

Based on the best-selling Thomas Harris novel and produced by Mick Jagger’s Jagged Films, ENIGMA is the new British spy thriller from the director of THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH – Michael Apted. After Bond’s last episode of intrigue and romance, this time Apted has to somehow create intrigue out of a code, and romance from a fling between a codebreaker and a filing clerk.

The Nazis may have been a lot of things, but sometimes you have to give it to them – they were clever bastards. Their Enigma code was one of the most ridiculously complex codes known to man; the most nightmare-inducing code to have ever invaded the dreams of wartime cryptanalysts. One of them is the brilliant Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott) who suffers a nervous breakdown, not from constantly staring at endless rows of letters but from being ditched by short-term lover Claire (Saffron Burrows) who then goes missing. The film tells two stories in one: the first is the codebreakers’ ongoing mission to crack the Enigma code before a whole convoy of Allied ships is wasted by U-boats in the North Atlantic; the second deals with Jericho’s mission to find Claire with the help of her flatmate Hester (Kate Winslet) who works as a filer at the Bletchley Park intelligence base. Both stories become intertwined when the obsessed Jericho discovers some coded messages beneath Claire’s bedroom floorboards, whilst the romantic plotline gets complicated when he inevitably falls for her friend. All the while he is hounded by an amusingly suave intelligence agent (Jeremy Northam) who pops up around every corner. War, codes, Claire, codes, Hester, codes, agents, codes – the poor codebreaker’s already disturbed mind struggles to hold out as his two missions become a race against time.

ENIGMA’s bad points are kept in balance by its good points. It is a stylish period drama with perfect production design – the forties feeling shines through every little detail. Some of the scenes are cinematically superb, the mid-Atlantic episodes in particular. However there is not much in the way of real drama or tension in the film despite the huge potential for there being so. It also becomes increasingly hard to follow towards the end, and we end up being bombarded with a stream of information as complex as the Enigma code itself.

Dougray Scott gives an unnervingly good performance as the distracted genius whilst Winslet is at her usual best. The problem is that she is woefully underused in the film – a bit more screen-time would have done it a world of good. It seems a bit implausible that the two of them end up falling for each other whilst searching for the girl Jericho loved so much he went mad. And finally, why is it that Kate looks her usual beautiful self on ENIGMA’s promotional poster when throughout the film she is a plump frump with no make-up and nasty spectacles? Makes no sense to me.

3 out of 6 stars

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