Enigma
(2001)

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WOLVES GATHERING

 

 


Director:                 Michael Apted
Writer:                    Robert Harris (novel)
                                Tom Stoppard (screenplay)
Music:                     John Barry
Cinematography:  Seamus McGarvey

John Barry - Enigma Theme (to save right click)

 

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Plenty of debate around this film. I’ve read the widely varying reviews and many people seem to think it doesn’t do justice to the novel by Robert Harris. Right from the outset – I haven’t read the novel but I do think that Tom Stoppards adapted screenplay is excellent. Michael Apteds direction gives us a nice feel for the era and for the type of people involved, intellectual and somewhat nerdish, creative people who were as valuable to the war effort, or even more so, than the soldiers in the field. Although the script sometimes isn’t sure exactly what is it spy / wartime drama / romance I personally feel that the blend is better that many reviewers give it credit for. Mix in with that an excellent score by John Barry and in my opinion you have a good (if not great) piece of work.

Dougray Scott does a nice job of depicting a young maths genius who, because of the war, becomes a brilliant cryptanalyst (code breaker). Unfortunately for him he also fell in love with a beautiful intelligence clerk, Claire Romilly (Saffron Burrows) who it becomes apparent is a harpy with a secret. He has a breakdown and is sent for R&R but when the Nazis institute a new code he comes back from Cambridge and pressed back into service at Bletchley Manor (the centre for British code breaking during the war.

Still haunted by the memory of Claire, it is not clear that he is of any use. He discovers that Claire is missing and the subplot begins with Jericho and Hester Wallace (Kate Winslet), once Claire's roommate, sleuthing through top secret intelligence files looking for clues to determine what happened to Claire and whether she was a spy or not. Kate Winslet, Tom's at first reluctant ally and then serious love interest, is indispensable to the story and she acts with quiet depth. What they discover along the way of course is each other. Watching them is Wigram, a rakish MI6 agent played beautifully with mystery and an arrogant ruthlessness by Jeremy Northam. He is truly an underused British actor with BAGS of talent.

The set is beautiful and the colours give a real sense of the time. People whine about the fact that Kate has too big a role and that the ending was different from the book. I would imagine if you’re reading this you won’t have read the book and (like me) can judge the film on the basis of the screenplay rather than the book itself – which I am assured is excellent.

Tom Stoppard, who is generally considered "a thinking man's" screenwriter, is excellent in bringing characterisation to the players. His gift for writing witty and authentic dialogue based on research and a finely trained ear is part of what makes this an interesting film well worth seeing. For example there is a nice exchange between Kate Winslet and her boss,

Mermagen: 'Do you know, without your glasses Ms Wallace, you don't look half bad'


Hester Wallace: 'Do you know, without my glasses, nor do you'

Or w hen the team are discussing the impending attack by U-Boats with a British Naval Commander, Cave:

Puck: Tell me, are we hoping for the U-Boats to find our convoy?
Pinker: Of course not.
Baxter: I am.
[receives stares]
Pinker: You can't mean that!
Baxter: What? Sacrifice a convoy to get back into Shark? Of course I would. How many men has Stalin had to sacrifice so far? A million? Two million? It's called "the greater good."
Cave: Spoken like someone who isn't in the middle of the North Atlantic at this moment...


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                           

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Enigma