Winslet shines in this marvelously complex, beautifully composed wartime thriller
By Jimmy Gillman
Marvelously complex and beautifully composed, Michael Apted’s aptly titled Enigma is a glorious throwback to the lush wartime thrillers that captivated audiences during and after World War II. No country was better at making these heated, historical dramas than Great Britain, demonstrated here by a native cast and crew featuring the always impressive Kate Winslet.
No doubt the English acumen for making these films came from knowing the war up close and personal. While many influential directors working in Hollywood were European immigrants with a better understanding of the war’s impact, they still worked far from the shelling within the safety of American borders. But understanding something intellectually and living it firsthand, as the British did, are two different things, and the differences show in many of their respective films.
The same is true with espionage, a talent the British seemed to have mastered—to this day, most of the first-rate spy films are British in origin. And so with director Apted’s Enigma, combining both wartime and espionage themes in a scintillating story based on historical incidents, you have all the makings of a top-notch film, which is precisely what you get.
Enigma serves up a highly suspenseful, serpentine mystery about British efforts to decode the Nazi’s groundbreaking “enigma” machine; an encrypting device with hundreds of millions of combinations. Without the ability to decode Nazi messages, American and Allied convoys sailing the Atlantic are sitting ducks for marauding German U-Boats.
This real-life story forms the backdrop for the film’s second mystery involving a possible traitor at Bletchley Park, the site of British code breaking operations during the war. A former girlfriend (Saffron Burrows) of the unit’s top cryptography analyst, Jericho (Dougray Scott), is missing along with some important German intercepts.
Jericho joins forces with the girl’s roommate (Winslet), who also works at Bletchley, to break the newest version of the enigma code and solve the riddle behind the girl’s disappearance. A few unexpected twists ensue, all of it deliciously delivered by noted playwright Tom Stoppard’s literate script.
With an effective James Bond-like score, courtesy of Bond composer John Barry, pitch-perfect period design and a strong supporting cast of British regulars, Enigma creates an engrossing and intriguing atmosphere that’s sure to keep viewers thinking.