Jay Allen Sanford 12:58 a.m., May 21
Second World War espionage thriller, set on the British homefront at Bletchley Park, otherwise known as Station X, the top-secret cryptography center, where they've now got just four days to crack "Shark," the revised German U-boat code, before a convoy of merchant ships from the U.S. enters perilous waters. In other words: same genre, same era, same milieu (more or less) as the nearby Charlotte Gray. We even meet the protagonist, a woolly-headed math whiz ("With numbers, truth and beauty are the same thing") recovering from a nervous breakdown, exactly where we earlier met Charlotte: at the window of a train compartment, which gives way to another train compartment in flashback. And like Charlotte, it belongs in the unglamorous, unromanticized, Graham Greene branch of spy fiction, notwithstanding the love triangle between an ace decoder (Dougray Scott, looking a bit like a young Tom Courtenay), a mysterious willowy blonde (Saffron Burrows), and the latter's wallflower roommate (Kate Winslet), fellow employees at Bletchley. Plot convolutions aside, it's historically interesting material, even, you might argue, intrinsically more interesting than the more familiar material of Charlotte. But that's not to say it's cinematically more interesting. Not to say — to take our metaphor from their introductory scenes — that it fits together as tightly and moves along as powerfully as a railway train. Charlotte is a Eurostar, a Thalys; Enigma is more of a huffing-and-puffing handcar. To be sure, the Enigma code machine — a sort of rewired typewriter with ever-changing letters for each key — is an interesting object, as is the primitive computer with its rows upon rows of revolving colored wheels. But these are essentially static museum exhibits. With Jeremy Northam; written by Tom Stoppard; directed by Michael Apted. 2002.
— Duncan Shepherd
- Rated R