Codes are very in at the moment. Besides Enigma, Windtalkers, the story of the Navajo codetalkers, just opened in the theatres. And last year, U-571 tried to give Americans the credit for breaking the Enigma code. For those of you not in the know, Enigma was the code used by the Germans and the Japanese during World War II. Their messages were coded and decoded using a nifty machine so diabolical that they considered their codes unbreakable. Unbeknownst to them, a Pole defected just before the war and brought one of the machines with him to England. Even if you have an Enigma machine, it is almost impossible to break the code unless you have the key. Enter Bletchley Park, Britain's super-secret code-breaking center during the war. Here, hundreds of people including some of the top mathematical minds in the world worked to break the code. The whole Enigma story is fascinating and has only been revealed in the last few years. But the result was that the Allies pretty much knew what the Axis was up to throughout the war.
The film, Enigma, is a fictional story set in Bletchley Park. One of the top code-breakers (Dougray Scott) has just returned after having a nervous breakdown when his girlfriend (Saffron Burrows) dumped him. She works at Bletchley Park too, as does her roommate (Kate Winslet). As the film begins, the Germans have changed the key to the Enigma code so that the Allies can no longer read their messages. The code-breakers go into overdrive to find the new key. Three large convoys are traveling across the Atlantic and the German U-boats are in hot pursuit. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Scott's ex-girlfriend, Burrows, has disappeared under mysterious circumstances and a spy (Jeremy Northam) has arrived to investigate. Despite being lovelorn and sleepless, our hero sets out to both break the code and find Burrows. He enlists Winslet to help him decode some messages that he found in Burrows' flat. These messages relate to yet another subplot that I won't spoil for you. Anyway, there quite a bit of action and suspense for a movie that consists mostly of people sitting around with pencil, paper and furrowed brows.
This is a really nice little movie. Even though it is fiction, the setting has been lovingly recreated and you get a good feeling about how Bletchley Park was during the war. And I love the whole Enigma story. Read The Cryptonomicon if you want more after seeing Enigma. Although the story gets a bit melodramatic at times, it is very enjoyable. Dougray Scott is great as the reluctant hero. I've only seen him once before playing the super-villain in Mission Impossible II which didn't stretch his acting muscles. And Kate Winslet, you've just got to love her. If you don't count Titanic, she is really a character actress and a good one. She just picks these weird little films like Hideous Kinky and Holy Smoke to act in because she likes them. She is definitely a character actress because she doesn't care about looking good. And she is positively frumpy in Enigma. This is at least partially because she was pregnant at the time. She did a fabulous job at being the young Iris Murdoch in Iris and she is great here. Most of the melodrama in this film comes from Jeremy Northam, who I really like, but he overacts with relish here.
Enigma is directed by Michael Apted
who has one of the most varied resumes of any director. He directed
Coal Miner's Daughter, Thunderheart,
and The World is not Enough.
He is also responsible for the Seven
Up film series which has followed a group of people from age 7 to age
42 (so far). And the Producers of Enigma are Mick Jagger and
Lorne Michaels. Apparently, Jagger and I are both big fans of the