Enigma (2001) from C2000

It’s March 1943. The outcome of World War 2 is in the balance and likely to be influenced by the success of Allied convoys in running the gauntlet of German U Boats in the Atlantic. The convoys are aided by the deciphering of German naval communications being carried out at Station X in Bletchley Park. Suddenly the Germans change the communication code (Shark) used by their Enigma cipher machines. Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott), the mathematical genius who first broke Shark, is recalled to Station X. Jericho and his team of code-breakers is given the task of breaking back into Shark before the convoy sails into the waiting U boats. With the involvement of a spy suspected everyone at Station X is under scrutiny from Wigram, a member of the British Intelligence Service.

In addition to breaking the German Enigma, Jericho has a personal enigma to solve. Claire Romily (Saffron Burrows), the girl who broke his heart and caused the nervous breakdown that forced him to leave Station X has disappeared without trace. He enlists the help of her friend Hester (Kate Winslet) to unravel Claire’s disappearance and possible involvement with another code-breaker at Station X while avoiding the clutches of the overbearing Wigram. Jericho, more accustomed to intense brain action, finds himself a reluctant action hero in a race against time to resolve both enigmas.


Saffron Burrows is briefly topless in the sex scene. Kate Winslet didn't get nude! Most likely due to her being pregnant at the time of filming.

Unlike many war movies there is no glorification of the characters. They are depicted how they really were – a group of extremely intelligent people who sat around drinking tea and playing chess waiting the arrival of intercepts to be deciphered. The movie and acting is good and the technical features of Enigma are dealt with in an informative but non-complicated manner. If you’re looking for an action packed war movie avoid this. The action is character driven rather than militaristic. However this is a pretty good thriller.

Historical Note

The Germans considered Enigma to be unbreakable. An Enigma machine resembled a cross between a portable typewriter and a small cash register. It had three rotors on a shaft with an alphabet around the outside. Inside each was electrical wiring that connected the position for each letter on one side to that for a different letter on the other. Each of the rotors made a different set of transpositions. When the operator pressed a key, electric current flowed through the three rotors in turn, each of which transposed the letter. The signal was then “reflected” back through the rotors, which transposed it three more times. It was transposed once more at the plugboard before the current finally lit a lettered porthole on the lampboard. Enigma was further complicated by the use of “daily keys” – the choice and order on the shaft, the position of movable rings on each rotor and the plugboard connections. The daily keys were changed every eight hours at the height of the war.

The decoding of German signals owed much to the capture of an Enigma machine and naval codebooks from a U-boat. Early version computers were used to work out possible combinations using a menu of potential positions drawn by mathematicians.

Source: The World At Arms, Readers Digest  

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Scoops' note:

In an interesting bit of historical revisionism, the character of Tom Jericho is fictional. The real character upon whom he is based, Alan Turing, who was a groundbreaking genius in both decryption and computing, would not have been very interested in Saffron Burrows, lovely as she is. He ... um ... didn't fancy the lasses, if you catch my drift.

C2000 continues:

I just noticed your reference to Alan Turing and his involvement in the field of computers in the Enigma review. Not fancying lasses was to cause problems for Turing after the war with several arrests for homosexual offences. Although the establishment secured his release on each instance Turing was disillusioned and committed suicide in 1954 by eating an apple injected with cyanide. Apparently the logo on Apple Computers is in tribute to Turing.

The Critics Vote

  • General US consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4, filmcritic.com 3/5

  • General UK consensus: two and a half stars.  Daily Mail 8/10, Telegraph 7/10, Independent 5/10, Guardian 6/10, Times 7/10, Evening Standard 8/10, Express 6/10, Mirror 6/10, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.3/10, Guardian voters 6.4/10,
  • with their dollars: about £4.6 million in the UK. It just opened in the USA April 21, with arthouse distribution only (25 screens)



IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-.

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