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.
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
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
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.
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
'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'
the team are discussing the impending attack by U-Boats with a British
Naval Commander, Cave:
Tell me, are we hoping for the U-Boats to find our convoy?
Pinker: Of course not.
Baxter: I am.
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...