There’s was concern a while ago that comparisons would be drawn between this and “U-571”. Now while both do deal with the German “Enigma” coding machine from WW2, I can’t imagine two movies being any further apart in style. “U-571” was loud and explosive popcorn entertainment, a very American blockbuster take on the Battle of the Atlantic filled with lightning fast pace, one-dimensional characters and FX.
“Enigma” on the other hand is a slightly slow paced romance/drama mystery tale set in rural England and revolving more around characters and twists than action. It’s a very British movie with European sensibilities and after recently being deluged with one of the weakest US film summers in ages, “Enigma” is a welcome change of pace for those seeking something with a little more depth.
This is a character-driven movie therefore the plot doesn’t amass to much in the end however it is a mystery and Director Michael Apted carefully weaves in twists and teases to keep us wondering about several things including the whereabouts of Clare, mysterious coded messages she stole, and whether she was the mole. Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet are very likable leads as they look into these mysteries whilst escaping pursuit by the police who have Tom (Scott) pegged as the prime suspect.
One great move is our lead hero Tom NOT being some strapping Matthew McConaughey tan & muscular hero. Instead we have a gaunt, unshaven and obsessive genius who is still recovering from a severe mental breakdown relating to Clare – he’s moody, intelligent and yet on occasion will do something not very nice (eg. slap Clare). Whilst he and Winslet don’t have much romantic chemistry they are a good “on screen friends/colleagues” duo and its fun to see them make some quite clever escapes from the cops.
Burrows turns in a very good performance too as Clare in the numerous flashbacks where we see how Tom fell for her (there also seems to be a vague hint of lesbianism with Winslet). Jeremy Northam on the other hand is in a rather curious role as the agent investigating the mole (ie. the foil).
The part is interesting and absolutely necessary to the story, and while Northam does fine its his accent that’s the problem – it just seemed over the top, especially compared to the very normal sounding accents of everyone else and in his previous work. The great Tom Hollander doesn’t really get to show off his skill like his great turn as the Scottish Director in “Maybe Baby” but does ok, and kudos goes out to the guy playing the eye-patched Navy officer co-ordinating the efforts.
Towards the end as the connections start appearing and the explanations unfold, things start taking on a more US “big action ending” style which kind of feels out of place but nevertheless is still effective. The ending is left open in a way that while it makes sense, there’s some elements to the story that your deliberately left to wonder and keep thinking about long after its over.
Apted has created a smart, engrossing and yet simple film with a range of characters that have substance and a plot that’s interesting and pulls you in. Make no mistake this is a romantic drama first and foremost though with some minor tweaking it would’ve been more effective if done as a thriller as at times it languishes in Tom’s depression and starts to get distracting.
The film will sadly struggle to find an audience as its a little too slow and unconventional for the mainstream blockbuster crowd, whilst on the other hand its lacking in depth and originality which’ll alienate the arthouse crowd. As is though I really quite like it, best film I’ve seen in a while.