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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
One of the motivations behind making this movie was the indignation of many British World War 2 veterans (and civilians) over the movie U-571 (2000), in which the capture of the Enigma was shown to be done by American navy officers (despite the fact that the makers of that movie had indicated their movie to be a work of fiction and no accurate portrayal of the events leading to the capture of the Enigma). See more »
When asked what the Enigma machine does, Jericho explains that "it turns plain text messages into gobbledygook." The word "gobbledygook" was invented by U.S. Republican Maury Maverick on March 30, 1944 (imitating the sound of a turkey) while the film is set in 1943. See more »
Seventeen signals, it's not enough yet.
Well, why the hell not?
When I'm done, we'll be looking for a needle in a haystack. But if we stop now, it'll be a hundred thousand haystacks.
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A decent spy yarn but falls far short of the true story
A couple of years ago PBS aired a 2-hour episode of Nova (the American equivalent of the BBC's Horizon) called 'Decoding Nazi Secrets.' It was a fascinating documentary about the work done at Bletchley Park, as well as some material about its American counterpart, Arlington Hall. I had wished it was even longer, for I suspected that what was left out was as interesting as what was included. Among the many memorable characters in the story, none stood out more than Alan Turing, a painfully shy, socially awkward, utterly brilliant genius. I found myself wishing that someone would make a theatrical film about the Enigma code and a film of Alan Turing's life, or both.
Unfortunately, this isn't it. In March of 1943, code-breakers at Bletchley Park discover to their horror that the German navy has changed the code sets used to communicate with U-boats at sea. These were based on the famous and diabolically complex encryption machine known as the Enigma. Authorities enlist the help of a brilliant young man named Tom Jericho (played by Dougray Scott) to help them break the code again. The possibility of a spy within the British code-breakers' ranks is raised, and Tom's love interest, Claire (Saffron Burrows), has disappeared. To solve these mysteries, Tom recruits Claire's best friend, Hester Wallace (Kate Winslet). While investigating Claire's personal life, the pair discovers personal and international betrayals involving the now-infamous Katyn massacre in Poland. Of course, Tom and Hester fall in love.
Dougray Scott actually does bear some physical resemblance to Alan Turing, but there the comparison ends. Turing's sorry, shabby reward for the instrumental role he played in winning the war for Britain was to be persecuted during the Cold War because his homosexuality was viewed as a security risk, to the point that he committed suicide. While 'Enigma' looks good and plays fairly well as a decent espionage film, the viewer who knows the factual background of this piece of fiction will probably be disappointed. The best part for me was the recreation of the physical setting at wartime Bletchley Park, especially the Enigma machines themselves and the famous Bombes, which were invented by Turing (Jericho in the film). These were among the world's first computing machines; they were a stroke of brilliance by Turing: Instead of looking for what a coded message WAS, they operated according to the principle of eliminating what it was NOT. This cut the number of possibilities by better than 90% and greatly simplified the work of the human code-breakers. It is somewhat surprising that this rather wan film is the work of Tom Stoppard and Michael Apted; they have done better.
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