Director: Michael Apted
Cast: Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam, Saffron Burrows, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Tom Hollander, Corin Redgrave
MPAA Rating: (for a sex scene and language)
Running Time: 1:57
Release Date: 4/19/02
Review by Mark Dujsik
Enigma is about a man obsessed. Because the man is a mathematician, his obsessive nature seems a given, not only because of his vocation but because of the introverted temperament that accompanies most people of the mathematically inclined. Itís also, as the title suggests, about a puzzle. The story is a mystery revolving around a disappearance, a mass grave, and a hidden, coded message from the Nazis. And with both of these elements in place, the film is ultimately about the manís transformation as the process of unraveling the mystery unfurls. Enigma could be classified as a thriller, but it wouldnít be doing the film justice. Director Michael Apted and screenwriter Tom Stoppard (working from a novel by Robert Harris) do not allow the film to play dumb for the audience. The mystery doesnít revolve solely around guessing who the bad guy isóthereís a historical and personal context to the whole thingóand the thrills are more cerebral than visceral. Filmmakers donít often venture into telling such stories and even less often do they make them as entertaining as the one told in Enigma.
World War II is in full swing,
and the intellectuals of
Not only does the film respect
its audience, but it also respects the story. There are no moments when the film simply abandons its heady thrills for
a shoot-out or a battle sequence. When
such a scene occurs, itís in the background, and the characters in the
foreground are trying to prevent it. Itís
a climactic scene, but we donít want it happening in the first place. Apted and Stoppard are content with and apt at eliciting our interest and
involvement in this rather complicated mystery without easing our brains and
making it all obvious. Then, going
against the typical thriller, thereís an actual historical and political
importance in the ultimate revelation. Suddenly,
it all becomes clear, and we realize just how much the film has drawn us in. At a time when movies forgo history for dramatic effect, Enigma
is all the more intriguing. Iím
sure small and probably some large details have been omitted, but even so, Apted
and Stoppard donít let on.
Along the way, they arenít
afraid to focus their attention on the characters and allow us to understand, at
least to a certain degree, why they care about this whole debacle. Dougray Scott is all internal longing and turmoil
as Jericho in a performance reminiscent of Russell Croweís turn in A Beautiful Mind in that he
seems to have worked from the inside out in developing his character. Flashback sequences between
Enigma ends with a head-scratching resolution. Itís not that the conclusion is implausible or even convoluted; itís just that it requires digging up a lot of given information from the very beginning of the film and sorting it all out. It takes some time to put it all together, but even so, weíre with it all the way.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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