The last time the German Enigma machine popped up in movies was in U-571, a decidedly different movie from Enigma, based on the novel by Robert Harris. Enigma has the dubious distinction of either being an intellectual film that isn't brainy, a suspense film light on the suspense, or both. Although it is much more historically accurate than U-571, it suffers from being a little too thoughtful when there should be some more things going on. Events here take place at Bletchley Park, Britain's center of intelligence. It's March 1943, and the Brits have already cracked the infamous Enigma code, thanks largely to Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott, Mission Impossible II, Arabian Nights). However, the ordeal, amongst other things, was too much for him and he took a leave of absence. He is back, physically and hopefully mentally, and finds himself with two new mysteries.

Claire Romilly (Saffron Burrows, Timecode, Miss Julie), his ex-girlfriend, is missing. The last time her roommate Hester Wallace (Kate Winslet, Iris, Quills) saw her was a couple of days ago. Jericho still loves Claire deeply, and feels that there are issues unresolved from when they last spoke. Jericho finds some coded messages in Claire's apartment, and begins to suspect that there is something sinister about her disappearance. Things are also amiss in the intelligence arena. The Germans developed a newer, more complicated version of Enigma that the code-breakers are working furiously to decrypt. However, it seems that the Germans are one step ahead of the code-breakers. Wigram (Jeremy Northam, Gosford Park, The Golden Bowl), a mysterious secret agent, is on hand to investigate the possible leak.

Needless to say, it's no big spoiler to say that the two mysteries are connected. But of course, director Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough, Nathan Dixon) and adapter Tom Stoppard (Vatel, Shakespeare in Love) will not say how until the end. Getting there is the hard part. Unfortunately, figuring out the inner workings of the relationship between Romilly and Jericho is never that interesting. Most of Burrows' scenes are in flashback, recounting how the two met and the events that led up to Jericho's breakdown. Much more interesting is the way Apted handles the events in the present. Apted must present a convincing case of Jericho cracking the new code and solving both mysteries without making the film incomprehensible or unbelievable. For the most part, he is successful.

Jericho relies on Wallace for help. Together, the two must participate in their own little espionage to try to figure out Claire's disappearance. The key is decrypting the messages Jericho found. What is less enjoyable is the Wigram character, who seems to pop up mainly to keep the story going or to delay Jericho and Wallace. It feels so artificial and preconceived, used only to stretch the story and add some suspense (it doesn't). Northam is fine playing the slime, but his character just feels out of place. Scott is better as the potentially unbalanced Jericho. He actually uses his brain to figure something out, and because of his predicament, it may be his undoing. Winslet is the best here, although she plays in a very conventional role. Wallace is the modern girl, smarter than people are willing to give her credit for, and more beautiful than her big glasses reveal. This means that slowly, Scott is going to recognize this. He does, but long after everybody else does.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 57 minutes, Rated R for a sex scene and language.

Back to Movies