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During the heart of World War II, in March of 1943, cryptoanalysts at Britain's code-breaking center have discovered to their horror that Nazi U-boats have changed their Enigma Code. Authorities enlist the help of a brilliant young man named Tom Jericho to help them break the code again. The possibility of a spy within the British code-breakers' ranks looms and Tom's love, Claire, has disappeared. To solve the mysteries, Tom recruits Claire's best friend, Hester Wallace. In investigating Claire's personal life, the pair discovers personal and international betrayals. Written by
I first viewed this film the way its makers would want me to - on the big screen, and with friends. It commanded my attention and concentration, which, I believe, is the way good movies should. The post-viewing dinner and analysis made me want to go back and see it again, in spite of the fact I thought my absorption was total. In the event I waited until I was able to rent, then purchase, the DVD. So my opinion is based on multiple viewings, which says much about the complexity and detail ENIGMA provides.
I am not surprised to read comments from others who believe it was too complex after just one viewing. But I am surprised by the diversity of opinion of its direction, acting, scripting, design and cinematography
all of which I found to be of the highest standard.
This is one of those rare films that does not require an audience to suspend dis-belief. It is primarily fact-based, and while, like most fact-based movies, some events are concatenated, characters combined or dramatized, the presentation oozes credibility. Is it entertaining? Absolutely. Do the romantic plots and themes detract? Not at all. Is the code-breaking boring? No, but, like most who viewed it with some knowledge of the German encryption machine from which the movie takes its title, it may have left stuff out that would be nice to know about. Other reviewers have referenced web sites and publications that contain the detail and I have sourced material that has satisfied my curiosity.
It is not a documentary, in spite of the fact that director, Apted, is an eminent documentary maker. It is a human drama set amongst the surreal environment of the code-breaking complex of Bletchley Park. I can't comment on how faithful Stoppard's screenplay is to Harris' book, not having read it. And it is specious for anyone to make comparisons in any case.
Does the film downplay the Polish contribution to the Ultra activities? I don't think so. They captured an early 3-rotor Enigma machine and copied it and successfully cracked the codes then in use. What the English operatives captured was the later 3-rotor machine with the front patch panel, which was a quantum leap ahead of the pre-war machines. Turing and his associates then created the 'bombes' - reproduced in exquisite detail for the movie with assistance of the curator of the Bletchley Park Museum. Incidentally, Britain built a number of these bombes for US intelligence, which the US still have. But that's the sort of detail that is not essential to the execution of the plot or the enjoyment of its portrayal.
I have now enjoyed viewing ENIGMA so often I have lost count. And it has done nothing but whet my appetite for further, while less frequent viewings. I can add nothing to the erudite comments of the more discerning reviewers regarding the performances of Scott, Winslett, Northam, Burrows and their superb supporting cast members. They have crafted one of the finest wartime movies I have had the pleasure to experience. An absorbing and fascinating movie. I rate it 10 out of 10.
Postscript - added 30/07/2011.
Incidentally, at my first viewing of the movie, I was impressed by the performance of a rather portly, bespectacled young actress. It was not until the post-viewing dinner my curiosity was sated, somewhat ashamedly (but in Ms Winslett's favour), for failing to recognise this talented lady. I later discovered - and it is obvious in the final scene of the film - Kate was, in fact, pregnant at the time. Carefully disguised during shooting, her condition simply made her character all the more believable.
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