Enigma

| May 12, 2002

The Enigma Machine was used by the German military during World War II to scramble and unscramble their top secret communications. It was so difficult to figure out because there were millions upon millions of possible permutations in its code. Enigma, the movie, is difficult to figure out because the film makers are asking us to believe that the most brilliant code-breaking minds in England missed the most simple plot permutations put before us, the viewer.
Enigma is another movie about how a good-looking woman can make a man do something he shouldn’t. And it is also a movie with lots of story lines that can keep you guessing. It takes an awfully long time for some of those lines to come together, but unlike a Tom Clancy novel (this novel was written by Robert Harris), the result isn’t as pleasant because a couple of plot holes let you skip ahead to the “so-and-so is going to solve the puzzle part.”
The place is Britain during World War II. Saffron Burrows (Deep Blue Sea) plays Claire Romilly, the good looking blonde who steals some of the secrets that top code breaker Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott from Mission Impossible:2 ) has come up with for Allied Intelligence. Is it coincidence that the Germans changed their Enigma machine codes right after Burrows turns up missing? Jericho thinks it isn’t and enlists her roommate Hester Wallace (Kate Winslet from Titanic, Iris, Quills) to help clean up the mystery.
With national security tops on everyone’s minds, especially the ones who protect it like our main characters, I kept wondering whey they didn’t go to their superiors with their suspicions? Yes, they would look bad, but better that than lose the war.
And while I’m complaining, how is it that the crack British Intelligence division can’t find a 26 pound, 2 foot by 2 foot by 2 foot Enigma Machine hidden in a small MG sports car that they have been ordered to search? Don’t they know about the hiding place under the convertible top?
It’s these two holes that allow Winslet to solve an important part of the puzzle that leads to her and Scott solving the crime at the same time that British Intelligence does. I am not sure why they weren’t carted off to jail for treason, but I guess London likes happy endings, too.
I have good things to say about the acting in the movie. Scott and Winslet are thoroughly believable in their roles. Jeremy Northam (Gosford Park, The Net) plays Wigram, the British Intelligence agent who keeps turning up to investigate the goings on. He reminded me of a radio drama or 1940’smovie character–full of mystery but with a humorous edge.
Director Michael Apted (from the 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42 Up documentaries and the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough) did an admirable job with the story, but there are just too many plot points taken from the original book to be able to follow Enigma comfortably.

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