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What's the story?
ENIGMA follows the story of the people who worked at historic Bletchley estate in the U.K. to unlock the Germans' unlockable secret codes, a major event that shortened the war by a year. The story's central figure is brilliant mathematician Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott), whose grasp of human relationships is a little shaky. Tom returns to Bletchley after a nervous breakdown. His superiors don't want him back, but he may be their best hope for breaking yet another new code (called "the Shark") and preventing a major attack on Allied forces. Meanwhile, the former girlfriend who caused Tom's breakdown, his co-worker Claire, has disappeared. Tom teams up with Claire's roommate Hester (Kate Winslet) to find out what happened to her. As they search for clues, they are tailed by Wigram (Jeremy Northern), a sleek secret agent.
Is it any good?
As he did with Shakespeare in Love, screenwriter/playwright Tom Stoppard brilliantly interweaves the real and the imaginary to illuminate not only his characters' era but our own. The essentials of the story are true, but the characters in the movie are fictional. Stoppard is fascinated with puzzles, wordplay, secrets, and stories within stories, all of which lend themselves very well to the Bletchley code-breakers. The movie brilliantly depicts the desperate atmosphere and heart-breaking dedication of the people who knew that their success – or failure – could do more to determine the outcome of the war than a thousand soldiers with guns.
The performances are excellent, particularly Northern, whose character has had to sacrifice what he once thought of as honor to serve a greater cause, has had to betray in order to be loyal, and has had to keep too many secrets. Winslet's only failing is her entirely unsuccessful effort to look dowdy. But she and Scott are marvelous at showing us something we seldom see in movies, really smart people using their intelligence.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the various moral dilemmas in this movie. When it becomes clear that there is no way to save the American supply ships in time, the code-breakers debate whether it is right to use what they know about the ships' positions to help them calculate the keys to break the code. What are the best arguments for each side? Who was right? The characters lie and there are a number of betrayals in the movie – more than some members of the audience may be able to sort through on the first viewing – and it is worth talking about how people decide whom to trust and how much evidence they need before they change their minds.
- In theaters: May 3, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: September 24, 2002
- Cast: Dougray Scott, Jeremy Northam, Kate Winslet
- Director: Michael Apted
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual situations and some graphic images
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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