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Starring Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam, Saffron Burrows
Screenplay by Tom Stoppard
based upon the novel by Robert Harris
Directed by Michael Apted

IN SHORT: average WWII spy/suspense film. [Rated R for a sex scene and language. 117 minutes]

You may remember a small brouhaha a couple of years ago when the film U571 was released. Even though the PR made efforts to stress that the story was fiction based upon a lot of history, most British citizens felt rightfully slighted at seeing Americans "take credit" for cracking the Nazi war code. That code, generated by a machine called enigma, was cracked at great loss of life by the Brits and the top line of UK creative talent has been rolled out to tell a story based on the machine that was instrumental in keeping the Allied powers on top in the early years of the war effort. Once the machine and code books had been captured, all Nazi communications were monitored -- the Nazis had no idea that the English had the machine -- sometimes at the cost of Allied lives.

As Enigma, the film, begins, millions of tons of vital materials are making their way across the Atlantic in three parallel convoys totaling about a hundred ships. Coincidentally, the Nazis change the key to their code system. Without that key, Enigma is a useless machine. With four days to "crack" the new code, Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott) the head of the original team, is brought back to the top secret campus where the codework is done. Jericho, apparently, lost his mind after losing his blonde bombshell girlfriend Claire Romilly (Saffron Burrows) -- it is hinted that he would have betrayed the country to win her stately Aryan form back. Claire has since disappeared.

That lost code key would be at the center of any American made movie but writer Tom Stoppard adds two more mysteries to his story, all linked to the disappearance of Claire. Her disappearance coincides not only with the change of codes but also with a command decision to stop monitoring transmissions from one specific Nazi site. Code cracking clerk Hester Wallace (Kate Winslet) is hard at work on the latter mystery, the pursuit of which will have her and Tom suspected of treason by the mysterious Secret Agent with Movie Star Looks, Wigram (Jeremy Northam). Wigram sees all, knows all, but doesn't seem to do much but show up at the most inopportune of times.

All will be explained by the end of the film but Stoppard's decision to leave at least one of the mysteries open to interpretation left us confused and unsatisfied. Enigma goes for the gold ring but fails to build up the suspense elements of what could have been one hell of a thrill flick.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Enigma, he would have paid . . .



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