How many ways can we look at World War II? According to the movies, an infinite number. In Enigma, we see the war from the vantage point of the heroic crypto-analysts at Bletchley Park, Britainís code breaking center. Based on the best selling novel by Robert Harris, Enigma is a period drama, stylishly transformed for the screen by Tom Stoppard.
We enter on a day when Nazi U-boats have unexpectedly changed the code (a.k.a. enigma) they use to communicate with each other. The men in charge turn to Tom Jericho (Scott), a strapping young mathematical genius and star code breaker who has just returned to Bletchley Park. Coincidentally (or not), Claire (Burrows), the woman he fell obsessively in love with (and into a nervous breakdown over) a few months prior, has gone missing. Tom believes her disappearance is somehow related to the enigma code. And is he ever right. Omnipresent Wigram (Northam), the higher-up assigned to investigate the mystery, is on his case at every turn. To figure it all out, Tom enlists the help of Hester (Winslet), Claireís frumpy yet lovable roommate.
There are a slew of reasons to admire Enigma: an engrossing score by John Barry, top-notch period detail, Stoppardís brilliant combination of historical fact and dramatic speculation, Winslet's and Scottís impeccable performances. One downfall is the somewhat rushed and implausible climax, which whisks the viewer away to Scotland to facilitate an unlikely action-packed sequence. Another is that the plot is somewhat esoteric and can be hard to follow at times due to frequent, seamless flashbacks. A second viewing would likely eliminate this confusion. Overall, these are minor weaknesses in a classy picture that marks the debut of Mick Jagger's production company, Jagged Films.
Directed by Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough), this film is a captivating tale that recalls such early Hitchcock classics as The Secret Agent and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Not just another blasť WWII flick, Enigma is worth figuring out.