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cast: Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam, and Saffron Burrows

director: Michael Apted

114 minutes (15) 2001
Miramax VHS retail
[5 August]

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Emma French
Directed by Michael Apted, who also helmed 1999's Bond film The World Is Not Enough, Enigma is a surprisingly exciting and suspenseful film that belies its heritage drama credentials with car chases, sexual intrigue and naval battles. It was adapted from the Robert Harris novel by Tom Stoppard, who again demonstrates his genius for subtle period touches and comedy conveyed with a contemporary excitement and accessibility.
   Looking far more furtive, dishevelled and skinny than the butch villain he played in Mission Impossible 2, Dougray Scott as the code-cracking genius Tom Jericho is appropriately un-cool yet compelling. Jeremy Northam gives the standout performance as the impenetrable, imperturbable Wigram. Handsome but creepy, he gets most of the film's best one-liners and gives the constant impression of knowing rather more than everyone else. Ex-model Saffron Burrows is ideal as the missing beauty Claire Romilly, a part which doesn't require her to do much more than look stunning in flashbacks. Kate Winslet uglys-up as frumpy brain box Hester Wallace, to an extent surprising even for a actress known for choosing craft over cosmetics. The final shot of her, radiant and pregnant, comes as something of a relief after her lengthy fat and bespectacled screen time. Winslet's performance, though competent, is actually the weakest. Precariously on the verge of parody as the clever clerk who wins the day over her flightier, prettier housemate, she is very much the Thelma to Saffron Burrows' Daphne. Matthew MacFayden, who has recently hit the big time playing the lead role of Tom Quinn in TV's Spooks is moving as the scarred officer Cave.
   Rather exposition-heavy closing scenes are essential after a garbled transferral of events to Scotland, but still slow things down frustratingly. Inevitably the story of cracking the code and winning the girl is more attractive than the aftermath, but the majority of the movie rises well above genre conventions. Enigma pulls off the difficult task of maintaining a sense of historical veracity without any nationalistic chest beating or Hollywood-style revisionism, and deserves to find a very wide audience on video.