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ENIGMA

SYNOPSIS:
In March 1943, Britain’s top secret code breakers, based at Bletchley Park, a country manor north of London, are thrown into a spin when the Nazis change their secret communication code. Brilliant code breaker Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott) is brought back from the midst of recovering from a nervous breakdown, precipitated perhaps as much by his unlucky love affair with the beautiful and mysterious Claire Romilly (Saffron Burrows) as by the pressure of the job. The affair continues to haunt him and influences the team, but with the help of Claire’s flat mate, Hester Wallace (Kate Winslet), Tom begins to piece together a totally different picture of his surroundings. And faced with the danger of a huge fleet being ambushed by U boats, the code breakers have to find a needle in a thousand haystacks. Fast.

The creator of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels, plus Mick Jagger, with distinguished playwright Tom Stoppard, renowned filmmaker Michael Apted, legendary composer John Barry and a cast of brilliants are seemingly an unlikely crowd to pull off one of the most intelligent and rewarding war thrillers of recent times. But they have. True, the Brits have a solid gold track record of war films, and this belongs up there with the best. Much more layered and complex than the (deliberately sparse) synopsis suggests, Enigma is at first a very good story – probably due to it being based on fact. But good stories have been wasted on screen before, and neither is a top cast any guarantee of making it all stick to the audience. In this case, all the main elements work at their peak, from writer and director, to cast and composer. So are the supporting elements, from production design to underplayed digital effects. And like all good films, it begins with a sensational screenplay, fashioned from an even more complex book. Stoppard shapes his characters and his plot with apparent ease, belying the great insight and talent it requires. Apted, who has shown his chops from the acclaimed doco series 7 Up to 42 Up, right through to James Bond (The World is Not Enough), crafts an engaging, nay, riveting film, built on character but propelled by love and courage. Of course, it’s all done with the restraint of English understatement, which carries quite a wallop when it has to. The entire cast give him all they’ve got, working the slightest nuance, the smallest glance, into a web of personality. It’s smart, dynamic and yet handled with a light touch to also make it graceful. You won’t regret spending your time and money here.
Andrew L. Urban

There is no doubt when a filmmaker gets everything right, and Enigma is a case in point. From Michael Apted's direction to Tom Stoppard's adept screenplay, John Barry's haunting, melodic score and its perfect cast, Enigma has all the elements to beguile, tantalise and entertain. The story itself is fascinating – many lives in the hands of a mathematical genius, that is the epitome of the anti-hero, and looks as though he could use a jolly good scrub. Dougray Scott is truly wonderful in this role – we believe his madness and brilliance – and understand his obsession with the golden girl of his dreams. But all the roles are memorable. Jeremy Northam (one of my favourites) delivers a simply crackling performance as head honcho of the secret service, milking the role for all its worth. You will have to look twice to recognise the wonderful Kate Winslet behind her owl glasses, dark hair and flat shoes. Her no-nonsense Hester is so real we can touch her, while Saffron Burrows is perfect as the elusive Claire, a statuesque and elegant blonde with red lips and loose morals. The locations are gorgeous – the road that winds through the fields covered with yellow flowers is a painting – while Barry's heavily stringed orchestrations with phrases that rise in intervals to enhance the tension, often reflect the big swells of the sea, as the U-boats come closer and closer. One of the things I like most about the film, is that the more you watch, the more you want to know. I did not want the film to end. Each character has a story of his own, and just like in real life, the characters are all thrown together. There are many memorable moments: picture the scene when a handful of code breakers are sitting around a map. They hold the key to the lives of hundreds of men, but they look like misfits playing a deadly game of battleships. Couching a perfect balance of tension, drama and humour, Enigma is gripping and enthralling entertainment. Of course, it is enigmatic – with such a title, how could it not be?
Louise Keller

OK thriller, shame about the love story. The attempt to weld a romantic mystery onto a wartime thriller is a marriage of much inconvenience. The details of the top secret work done by 12,000 people at Bletchley Park are so fascinating it's hard to care much about the disappearance of Tom Jericho's girlfriend. Director Michael Apted, who has always handled factual material with great skill and character-based drama with more uneven results, calls this "a smart, sexy movie about young people being heroic". Less sexy and more smart might have made this a much more absorbing study of one of the most critical intelligence operations of WW2. The gathered army brass, creepy secret service spook Wigram (Jeremy Northam) and an eccentric roster of mathematicians, scientists and crossword puzzle champions assembled for the code-breaking task provide a colourful human counterpoint to the technical data and there seems no need to flashback to troubled genius Jericho (Dougray Scott) in happier times with mystery woman Claire. Especially when the delightful Kate Winslet is on hand as the new girl in Tom's life. At least Saffron Burrows is believable as a woman whom men would disgrace and debase themselves for. Unfortunately she's opposite the uncharismatic Dougray Scott whose pasty appearance suggests an exclusive diet of chips fried in the cheapest oil and gallons of black coffee. He is meant to be a man under duress but he looks like a man six feet under. U-571 tried to steal the Enigma glory for America; Apted's film sets the record much straighter and does a good job when dealing with the facts. Unfortunately he lets a not-so-good story get in the way of the truth and the end result is half-baked.
Richard Kuipers

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

ENIGMA (M)

(UK/USA/GERMANY)

CAST: Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Saffron Burrows, Jeremy Northam, Nikolaj Coster Waldau, Tom Hollander

PRODUCERS: Lorne Michaels, Mick Jagger

DIRECTOR: Michael Apted

SCRIPT: Tom Stoppard (Robert Harris novel)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Seamus McGarvey BSC

EDITOR: Rick Shaine ACE

MUSIC: John Barry

PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Beard

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Becker Entertainment

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 25, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Rocvale

VIDEO RELEASE: March 13, 2002

VIDEO RELEASE: (Sell-Thru): July 10, 2002
Also available on DVD

Critics and audiences may enjoy Tom Stoppard and Michael Apted’s version of the Enigma code breaking story, but those who know the real Alan Turing story are outraged.







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