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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

It's a Puzzler

Enigma (2001) on IMDb

Plot Overview

In WW II British code-breakers were given a leg up on cracking Nazi encryption with a gift from the Poles: “It weighs twenty-six pounds, battery included, and goes any­where. The Enigma machine – the Germans have thousands of them.” It had three rotating alpha­numeric wheels that needed to be set, and four cables to plug into selected jacks on a board, making a gazillion possible combinations, which would take a person a thousand years to go through. Since the Nazis changed the settings daily, it was unbreakable.

workloadSmart code-breakers at Bletchley Park—60 miles north of London—had a crack at it. They used a monstrous electro­mechanical computer that took up a whole building—it made a horrendous racket but was a big step up from Babbage's Analytical Engine, a steam-powered computer from seventy years past—to churn out the solution over­night using input from inter­cepted radio signals transferred to punch cards by a team of dedicated women. Other women would use the solution in typex machines to trans­late the inter­cepted signals, which the Brits would then read, the Nazis none the wiser.

Out of paranoia or an abundance of caution, the Germans came up with a new model Enigma for their U-boat fleet, which used four wheels instead of three, and this one was too much for the computer to decode in any reasonable amount of time. The smart chaps at Bletchley came up with a work-around. The Germans used a standard three-wheel Enigma machine to send out lower security weather reports read by all their shipmen at sea, the submariners just using a neutral setting for the fourth wheel. Once the British code-breakers decoded the weather report, using its standard preamble as a crib, it was a walk in the park to decode the fourth wheel. Once the allies knew where those U-boats were, they sent planes to blow them out of the water, winning the battle of the Atlantic, enabling the convoys to deliver their matériel unimpeded.

Robert Harris`s book Enigma, on which this movie is based, has an unknown mole tipping off the Germans that their weather code book is compromised. The Germans change the book leaving the code-breakers in the lurch. Bletchley recalled brilliant mathe­ma­tician Thomas Jericho (Dougray Scott) from Cambridge where he'd gone to recuperate from a nervous break­down. He comes up with a new idea that uses U-boat chatter tracking the convoys to break the code. This doesn't set well with some of his comrades who are loath to use some­one else's misery to gain a success. One of the exigencies of war, how­ever, is to set aside personal feeling for the sake of the mission. Here's an example from Deuter­mann's novel set in the Pacific theater:

The admiral nodded … . “More advice,” he said. “Thoughts about your professional reputation should not play a part in tactical decisions. Now, that's easy to say and very hard to do, but as a unit commander, you have to focus on the task at hand and not ever factor in what other people might think of you after­wards. The ability to do that is what separates the pro from the amateur, okay?” (136)

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Special Intelligence Services sends a consummate professional in Mr. Wigram (Jeremy Northam) whose job it is to ferret out the mole from among a dozen or so possibles who knew the importance of the weather code book. Jericho, how­ever, discovering some undecoded pages hidden beneath the floor­boards at the cottage of his missing girl­friend Claire Romilly (Saffron Burrows) enlists the aid of her flat­mate Hester Wallace (Kate Winslet) to look up their providence in off-limit files and go from there. Theirs is an “amateur sleuthing adventure.


The code-breakers' supervisor Mr. Skynner (Robert Pugh) “offered a bottle of scotch for the first man to come up with a menu.” When Jericho succeeds, he declines the beverage. Got to keep a clear head, he does, to save the convoys. (Prov. 31:4-5) “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink: lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.”

(Prov. 31:6-7)“Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.” Instead he gives the bottle to their naval liaison who was conked out on the desk awaiting their results.

(Prov. 31:8-9) “Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” The amateur sleuths discover the source of the found message traffic to be from the German Nachtrichten Regiment 537 in the Ukraine who had unearthed some kind of mass grave that could be an embarrassment to the allies, which is why the higher-ups wanted it covered up. Claire who monitored that traffic was in a bind, so she did a runner or some­one did her in. At any rate the truth is bound to come out eventually.

(Prov. 31:10-12) “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” As the story develops it looks like Hester would make better wife material for Tom than would Claire.

Production Values

” (2002) was directed by Michael Apted. Its screen­play was written by Tom Stop­pard based on the novel by Robert Harris. It stars Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, and Saffron Burrows. Scott and Winslet worked well together. They all performed by what seems a higher British standard than what American actors can get away with.

MPAA rated it R for a sex scene and language, neither of which would have caused the movie to suffer to do with­out. Punctilious attention was paid to period detail including war era music. Even the brief submarine scenes were not stinted on. It was well written. Burrows danced like a natural.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This movie does a good job of conveying a tense atmosphere with cautious optimism. It's steadily paced the way British spy novels are that I've enjoyed, but that doesn't mean every­one will be impressed. There are more stiff upper lips in it than black eyes.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Special effects: Average special effects. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, print.

Deutermann, P.T. The Commodore. Copyright © 2016 by P.T. Deutermann. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2016. Print.