One night at McCool's

Kate Winslet, Dougray Scott. Directed by Michael Apted.
Running Time: 118 mins
Rated: MA 15+

In March 1943 the code breakers at Bletchley Park, Britain's top secret Station X, are facing their worst nightmare: Nazi U boats have unexpectedly changed the code by which they communicate with each other and German High Command. An Allied merchant shipping convoy crossing the Atlantic with 10,000 passengers and vital supplies is in danger of attack. The authorities turn for help to Tom Jericho (Scott), a brilliant young mathematician and code breaker.

Unknown to his colleagues, Jericho has another equally baffling enigma of his own to unravel: Claire (Saffron Burrows), the woman with whom he has fallen in love, has disappeared from Bletchley just when the authorities suspect there may be a spy at the Park.

To get to the bottom of both mysteries he enlists the help of Hester (Winslet), Claire's best friend. Together they keep one step ahead of the secret services and investigate Claire's mysterious life, reaching a conclusion that uncovers international and personal betrayals.

In every respect Enigma is an old fashioned film. Appropriate for its setting, it looks and feels like an updated version of the spy thriller films of World War II. The art direction is superb and the cinematography very fine indeed. The acting is good too with Scott and Winslet putting in
convincing performances. The coarse language and cursing will offend some viewers.

I have not read Robert Harris' novel of the same name, but there are so many gaps in Tom Stoppard's screenplay that the suspension of disbelief is pushed a bit far. It is astounding to see how much access Hester the clerk and Tom the mathematician gain get to Britains top-secret files and most-secret places.

The major difficulty with Enigma is that the British are now doing what they US filmmakers have turned into a fine art: rewriting WWII history to suit themselves.

Although the Poles are given passing credit in Enigma for their role in breaking the German code, you could swear, from this film, that they were minor players. Polish Intelligence, in fact, broke the code in 1932 and passed over all their information to the British in 1939 from which the brilliant enigma machine was developed.

In Enigma, rather than share the credit with the Poles they are painted as the villains. What is especially galling about the screenplay is that this fictitious story happens against the dreadfully true story of the Katyn massacre, where on 13th April 1943 Stalin ordered 20,000 Polish soldiers to be murdered.

It's a pity the old fashioned style of this film did not extend to its handling of the truth and its honouring the memory of Polish war dead and their immensely clever decoders.

Richard Leonard SJ

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