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A.J.'s Rating: 2.5 Scrambled Stars
Enigma
Directed By:  Michael Apted
Written By:  Robert Harris (novel) / Tom Stoppard (screenplay)
Starring:  Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam, Saffron Burrows, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Rated:  R (language / sesuality)
Running Time:   122 Min.
    The time is 1943.  The place is Bletchley Park, England.  Dougray Scott plays Tom Jericho, gifted young cypher expert and one of the few people brilliant enough to uncover the secrets of Enigma, the encryption machine used by Nazi submarines.  Now, Mr. Jericho finds himself tormented by the one thing in the world he cannot figure out... her name was Claire.
   
    Yes, once again, Love rears its pretty little head as the dogs of war ravage the earth.  You know, I remember a time when war movies would often begin with our gung-ho hero marching into battle and trading in his love for Mary Sue or Mary Jane or Beatrice for the love of his trusty rifle.  Any further mention of love or future romance would come from the poor sucker who gets killed off first in the second reel.  Where have those days gone?  Do recent war movies include romantic subplots in an attempt to woo a more gender-balanced audience?  It would seem so, though I haven't noticed this trend in other film genres yet.  I suppose that when we begin seeing car chases during Jane Austen adaptations, we'll know for sure.
   
    Now, don't misunderstand.  I enjoy a good romance just as much as the next guy, but why can't they ever get this mix right?  Usually, as in Enemy at the Gates, the war story suffers due to a lame romance.  Other times, as in Captain Corelli's Mandolin, an interesting romance suffers due to a lame war story.  And then sometimes, as in Pearl Harbor, the entire audience suffers due to a lame movie.
   
    Enigma is not a lame movie, but it's no cinematic gem either.  There is very little attention given to historical accuracy, and the best that can be said for its romantic entanglements and plot twists are that they are comfortably predictable.  As for the wartime setting, well, it's not really needed.  A similar story of espionage and amorous undercover operations could easily have taken place in a present day, Enron-like corporate setting.  In fact, many of the events in Enigma would have played out more believably if it had!
   
    As for the players, there are a couple standouts.  The first is Jeremy Northam as the fittingly enigmatic Secret Service Agent Wigram, who just may know more than he lets on.  The second is Saffron Burrows as the mysterious Claire, who conveys a steamy and playful sensuality seldom seen by nerdy British mathematicians.  Dougray Scott is adequately eccentric as Tom Jericho, and Kate Winslet does her best to combine Nancy Drew with Rachel Weisz's character from 1999's The Mummy.  The rest of the cast do their duties as talking heads, and I give them credit for doing so without also putting those in the audience to sleep.  Bravo!
   
    Surprisingly, even with its overly abundant dialogue, uneven storyline, and non-existent action, I still managed to enjoy this movie.  The true secret of Enigma is that, while nearly all of its characters behave in a clandestine manner, they do so with an air of innocence that is difficult to resist.  That ironic quality was enough for me to recommend it.  In other words, I liked Enigma, but I wouldn't say I loved it.
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Review published
May 22, 2002
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