Main cast: Dougray Scott (Tom Jericho), Kate Winslet (Hester Wallace), Jeremy Northam (Wigram), Saffron Burrows (Claire Romilly), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (‘Puck’ Pukowski), Tom Hollander (Logie), and Corin Redgrave (Admiral Trowbridge)
Director: Michael Apted
Opinions are divided over Enigma, based on Robert Harris’s bestselling fictitious story based on real-life World War 2 cryptographers (code breakers) that helped turned the tide of the war against the Nazi. On one hand, Dougray Scott’s reclusive, socially-inept, and tormented Tom Jericho seemed to be based on real-life counterpart Alan Turing. Trouble is, Turing was gay, and his horrible persecution – that was the probable reason that drove him to commit suicide – during the Cold War for his sexual preferences will remain one of the more embarrassing moments in the history of Great Britain. The man was a hero, for goodness sake!
In this movie, Tom Jericho is straight, and he even gets the girl. No wonder purists are foaming at the mouth.
Nonetheless, Enigma is a well-acted movie that only loses sight of the plot slightly during the last half-hour or so.
During World War 2, the group of code-breakers stationed in Bletchley Park spend days and nights working to crack intercepted German coded transmissions. However, the German has changed the code, and now American convoy ships are in danger of heading straight into an ambush. And in the long run, if they don’t crack the new code, the Germans would have won. The men of Bletchley Park have four days to save the world.
Enter Tom Jericho, a brilliant mathematician who has, er, spent some quiet time alone after a nervous breakdown. He is haunted by memories of the beautiful Claire, a worker at the Bletchley Park mail/file department, who has now disappeared. She may or may not be a traitor.
As Jericho tries to crack the code, he also has to deal with Claire’s disappearance. Meanwhile, the British Secret Service man Mr Wigram is also in Bletchley Park, determined to sniff out the traitor in their midst. Wigram’s prime suspect seems to be Claire. Jericho’s only ally is Claire’s dowdy house-mate Hester, a brilliant cryptographer reduced to being a glorified filing girl because of her gender.
Enigma is obviously English’s answer to that horrid movie U-571, which gave Americans the credit for solving the German code. This one is a slow but James Bond-esque movie, albeit one with a passive, tortured hero. Dougray Scott’s portrayal of Jericho is a mixed bag – on one hand, he is an unlikable dolt who seems to be preoccupied with the missing girlfriend when the world around him is at war. On the other hand, his pathetic demeanour does elicit sympathy.
Jeremy Northam, on the other hand, comes close to overacting, especially during the later scenes, with his Bond-like character, a secret agent who uses flirtation and charms to intimidate his opponents. His easy flirtation with Jericho early in the movie may be the sole nod director Michael Apted is making towards poor Alan Turing.
Saffron Barrows and Kate Winslet do their best in their limited roles as femme fatale and the frumpy good gal respectively. Ms Winslet’s character actually plays a critical role in the movie, but alas, her role is so underwritten that she is reduced to being dour Jericho’s sunny sidekick.
Nonetheless, the fine performances by the cast and the well-done direction makes Enigma an enjoyable movie. I confess half the code thing goes right over my head – ask me how Jericho’s code-breaking Enigma Machine works and I will give you a blank look – but hey, it’s still one fine movie with one amazing cast. In fact, come to think of it, the cast may even be too good for this movie.